Monday, September 24, 2007

Innovation Equation

Sometimes, people want things in "black and white". They need to know there's some overriding formula or approach that if applied correctly will lead to the best results. Since the stakes are so high for innovation success, the investment risks so great, everyone wants to make sure they are doing things "right" from an innovation perspective. This thinking is the death knell of innovation.

If your team is worried about doing things "right", then they are constantly seeking to compare what they do to some known process or method. Unless your firm has been successfully innovative before, following any existing methods or processes is probably not going to be overly successful. Innovation generally requires change. Also, if your team is concerned about doing the "right" things, then they have concerns about doing the "wrong" things and will fail to experiment or stretch their vision or capabilities. Given the probabilities of success for any one idea or initiative, there are going to be some failures along the way. Too much emphasis on doing the "right" things will limit the number of ideas and focus the attention of the team on safe, proven ideas.

Innovation is a function of Insight, Execution, and Probability over time. As far as Insight is concerned, your team needs the freedom to understand what's happening in your market and where the opportunities lie. Once those opportunities or trends are identified, they need the ability to create and evaluate ideas to meet those opportunities and trends. As they do this, some ideas will fail, some will succeed, and some will morph to become completely new ideas. In this matter you can expect that probability will play a role. Ideas that seemed great on the surface will run into difficulties while ideas that seemed wild may prove to have value.

Time is also a critical element of the innovation function. Generating, evaluating and selecting ideas takes a significant amount of time, especially for teams just starting out or when innovation is not the primary focus of the team. Then, moving a new idea into product or service development and then launching the new product takes time as well, and even in these phases there may be good reasons to stop a project or kill an idea.

Insight, Execution, Probability and Time are some of the key inputs into an innovation equation. Clearly there are some "boundary" conditions as well. The capability of your teams and the culture of your organization play important roles in these equations. A limited viewpoint and a culture that resists innovation will stymie even the best innovation team. When your company attempts to innovate, are all of the variables addressed and optimized?
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 4:50 AM


Anonymous Michael Schacker said...

Teams need to be trained and supported on the corporate intranet to be successful at innovation. We have created a software package for innovation, idea creation and idea management, called Ingenuity Bank. Chuck Frey just reviewed the 4.0 version at Innovation Tools. Wonder if you thought it could help solve the Innovation Equation?

We use video clips to train and it seems to work very well. We teach LCS using video.

Chuck wrote: The evaluation process in Ingenuity Bank 4 is based on Idea Champions’ “LCS” process, which stands for Likes, Concerns and Suggestions. The firm developed this framework for idea evaluation as a way to provide useful feedback to the idea generator, but without totally derailing his or her idea. Most idea management systems invite idea evaluators to share their concerns about an idea, but don't really provide structured protocol for soliciting suggestions for improvement. The LCS method provides a way to transform a critic into a collaborator on an idea.

10:19 AM  
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9:22 PM  

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