Good news….companies are investing in innovation programs.
Bad news….innovation programs are failing because companies are not setting them up for success.
Based on a recent survey of 217 professional services firms, it was found that 44% of companies surveyed were “innovation active”, while 23% were not innovating at all or had abandoned their innovation programs altogether.
Why are these programs being abandoned and how can companies that are actually investing in innovation increase the return on innovation investment?
Here are eight essential elements that will help stop your innovation programs from failing:
1. Build a culture to support innovation
Innovation programs are only as good as the culture that underpins them. Large organisations are built around a risk averse culture that ultimately ends up stopping innovation from flourishing and innovation programs from succeeding. Build a culture that encourages employees to fail, celebrates quick wins and promotes experimentation.
2. Equip your team with the tools and skills to succeed
If a carpenter turned up to a house without his tools then he would fail to deliver. The same goes for innovation. If your team members are not equipped with the tools and techniques to generate new ideas and build them then they are set up to fail. Ensure team members are provided with the training to allow them to unleash individual and team creativity. Design Thinking and Lean Startup training are fundamentals that all innovators should be able to put into practice. Find out how Sportsbet applied Lean Startup to help drive their innovation programs.
3. Maintain momentum
It is common to come across organisations that have completed an idea contest only to sit on all the ideas submitted. What happens next? Energy levels drop and enthusiasm is destroyed. It is essential to keep the momentum going with any innovation program because the more delays that are encountered during the innovation journey, the higher the chance of failure. Create a sense of urgency by setting realistic timelines and sticking to them.
4. Top down support
For innovation programs to succeed the innovation agenda has to be supported by leadership in the organisation. Senior management need to walk the talk. Leaders also need to be aligned in regards to their innovation priorities. If there is alignment across leaders within an organisation then selecting ideas and executing on them becomes a much easier and faster process.
5. Clearly defined success metrics
If your team is not aware of what constitutes success then they will have a lack of direction. Set up and establish clear success metrics such as the number of experiments run or Return on Failure (RoF). Stay away from the traditional metrics of ROI and NOV as these often end up stifling innovation within an organisation. Innovation success metrics will ensure your team has a collective understanding of what success looks like.
6. Criteria for prioritisation
Establish a plan for prioritising innovative ideas that are identified during the innovation program. Winston Churchill was on the money when he said that “no idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered”. However, not all ideas will align with the priorities of your organisation. Is there a clear definition of what innovation is within in your organisation? Is the focus on incremental, adjacent or disruptive innovation?
7. Give the team time to focus on innovation
Once you have the right talent to drive your innovation agenda, the second vital ingredient is time. Your team needs to be granted the time to focus on innovation. Whether we like it or not, “business as usual” will pop up regularly, negatively impacting the time spent on your innovation program. Protect the time of your team and allow them to spend the time required on identifying and executing on ideas. Who knows, maybe this approach could help turn innovation from the “flavour of the month” at your organisation to something resembling “business as usual”.
8. Share success with the wider organisation
Start sharing the success stories from your innovation program with the wider organisation. By sharing these success stories and including the wider organisations in the innovation efforts, there is a lower chance of other areas of the business bringing down the innovation program. Create an inclusive environment and watch your innovation program flourish.
Most organisations are finally catching on to the fact that they need to place a strong focus on innovation. Whether it be running an idea contest, rapidly prototyping ideas or launching an innovation outpost, it is essential that these innovation programs are set up increases the likelihood of success in what is an era of unforeseen change and uncertainty.