So, there you are. The owner, finally, of a perfect innovation capability. Your innovation teams sparkle with insight. They understand the customers’ needs in greater depth than the customers themselves. The innovative teams are highly engaged, creative and very effective. They can generate ideas that literally knock your socks off. You can’t wait to see many of these ideas in action. Finally, after months or years of hard work, your innovation investment will finally pay off as new products and services that customers demand. The future is so bright, as they say, that you’ve gotta wear shades.
And then, depression sets in. Because nobody bothered to tell the product development, service development, marketing or commercial launch teams about all the good ideas coming their way. And their processes, systems and backlog are not going to be impressed with your nice little list of ideas.
A high speed, spectacular crash
That’s what happens when a irresistible force meets an immovable object. Unfortunately, it’s the object with the inertia and the mass that usually wins. In your case, that means that your fast, nimble and well thought out ideas will crash into the reality of backlogged product development teams, conflicting priorities favoring existing products, overtaxed development resources and sales and marketing teams resistant to new allocations of dollars and resources. Oh, and just for kicks, the regulatory, legal and safety folks would like to weigh in on your ideas. And let’s not get started on when IT will be able to build the systems to support the new rollout. What do you think this is, the Jetsons?
Preparing the path for your innovations to succeed
Innovation is a much larger activity than simply generating ideas. Good ideas are meaningless unless you can deliver them to customers as new products and services. This is why a “skunkworks” is often a failure. It’s ideas are unattached from any ability to deliver products or services to consumers. This disconnect is also why so many good ideas are generated and so few actually reach consumers. There are simply too many conflicting priorities, too many development hurdles, to implement more than a small handful of new ideas. Unless, of course, you smooth the path for ideas by connecting the “front end” of innovation with the “execution engine” of the business so there are few surprises and much better prioritization and resource allocation. When confronted with something new and unusual, the typical and easiest answer for a manager is to say “no” or to simply place new ideas far down the priority stack. What’s needed is more visibility, more communication and more planning about the transition of ideas from the innovation team to the teams that will help develop the new product or service. This transition is probably the most vital transition in your business, and the least understood. Left to chance, the organization will always favor existing products, existing investments and existing priorities. Good innovators understand the importance of the link between the “front end” of innovation and the teams responsible for execution and development, and they start conversations early in the cycle to include the execution and infrastructure teams, or make plans for alternate delivery solutions if the execution engine can’t or won’t accommodate new ideas.