Rocketry as a metaphor for innovation
Just as it takes a lot of energy to get a rocket off the ground, it takes a lot of energy and momentum to propel an early innovation initiative to success. If you'll notice, there's not an incremental, push it along a little bit at a time and see what happens aspect to launching a rocket. The forces weighing against the rocket and the astronauts are too strong to take off successfully that way. The same is true with innovation. We need a solid launch, with lots of energy behind it to resist the cultural forces that will pull innovation back to Earth. With too little support, too little energy, too modest goals, we'll never get off the ground.
Like our hypothetical astronaut, our innovation teams are sitting on a tremendous amount of potential energy that can be unleashed and directed. Any organization is full of great concepts and ideas waiting to be directed. It's the innovation team's job, and the management's responsibility, to unleash and direct that energy and passion to create new products and services and eliminate the cultural barriers. Interestingly, after the big initial push, the ensuing work becomes easier, for the rocket and for the team, as you leave the gravity well and demonstrate success.
One significant difference between space flight and innovation is that the overwhelming majority of astronauts return safely to earth. Of course the failure option is not considered. On the other hand, many innovations will skip off of the earth's atmosphere and burn up on re-entry. The risk associated with failure in an innovation program should be much lower.
To recap, both a spaceship and an innovation program need to overcome tremendous pressure to succeed. There are no incremental launches, no half steps into orbit. Once there, the pressure to return an astronaut to safety is tremendous, while the failure rate for ideas should be reasonably high.