Driving innovation [2/2]: new initiatives [Max Yogoro]

Driving innovation [2/2]: new initiatives

This is the second part of an article. On the previous part, I initially talked about near and long term problems of not thinking about your innovation initiatives and opportunities as a whole, and then presented ways to interpret and guide them according to a broader perspective. I recommend you to read it. Here is the link: Driving innovation [1/2]: a portfolio perspective.

Nowadays, organizations are exposed to an overwhelming spectrum of opportunities to innovate. Here is a short list of subjects that you probably have heard of: Artificial intelligence; Omnichannel; Chatbots; User experience; Human-centric design; Growth hacking; Circular economy; Startups; Acceleration; Blue ocean strategy; Business model innovation; Holacracy; Co-creation; Change management; User journey; Intrapreneurship; Disruptive technology; Exponential organizations. This list could go on and on.

Each one of these concepts opens up whole new ecosystems of discussions, possibilities, and initiatives. They are rightfully attractive and their underlying principles compelling. It is easy to get lost.

The need for improvement and transformation is continuous and while the alternatives are almost infinite, energy, time, and resources are not. Learning to navigate this sea of opportunities means the difference between a prosperous and an unpromising path for organizations.

Directing your new initiatives

After setting clearer strategies to your innovation portfolio [if you didn’t yet, take a look at Driving innovation [1/2]: a portfolio perspective], let us explore how to give new initiatives a good guidance, in that pre-plan moment when you have an opportunity/challenge at hand and the real plan is not born yet.

When in this moment, there are three core aspects to take care of: choosing appropriate methods and competencies [Tone], defining who will be involved when and how [Network], and setting a plan aimed to gradually mitigate uncertainties [Approach].

Tone

Creating a new product, developing a novel technical solution, redesigning your business model, and transforming your HR strategies are examples of challenges that require different methods and competencies. Properly matching problems and tools optimizes your energy and resources, while getting you closer to satisfying outcomes.

The initial interpretation of a challenge requires experienced and integrative people. I recommend that you assemble a specific small team for this task, preferably composed of people who:

  • have knowledge and experience in different fields and methods [design thinking, engineering-oriented problem solving, co-creation, etc.].After all, it’s not so valuable to ask which is the best juice to someone who only knows [and sells] orange juice.
  • are inside and outside your organization. For this second category look for advisors, specific people, not companies
  • are comfortable with uncertainty
  • have integrative minds [they are good in comprehending and merging concepts, even if contradictory ones]

Conversations with this team are meant to uncover the essential tones of the challenge:

Tech-driven: technology or technique as leading aspect; new applications of a known tech; invention

Design-driven: customer or market need as leading aspect; finding what it desirable; empathy

Vision-driven: vision or radical idea as leading aspect; experimenting with a wild concept; imagination

This deeper comprehension for each challenge helps you to define which methods and competencies are adequate among those you are capable and/or willing to access.

Network

You are part of a larger network whose information, knowledge, creative potential, and resources are much broader than yours. Leveraging this power and creating shared value enhances your chances of success.

Some stakeholders may support you in understanding, creating and/or executing something. Some may support you with resources and/or capital. Stakeholders have different roles depending on the initiative’s development phase, Exploration [deep understanding, research, and discovery], Design & Validation [ideation, prototyping, and testing], Refinement & Implementation [adjustment and production], and Growth [volume escalation].

It’s easy [in fact, self-centered] to focus on the benefits that these stakeholders might bring to your initiative, so be sure that you create value also for them. Shared value promotes shared efforts.

Approach

Getting the approach for innovation/design/redesign initiatives right consists in developing a proper mindset and process.

For a proper mindset:

  • you are navigating a context full of uncertainties. Changes are supposed to happen. Be thoughtful and open as you go
  • ideation needs validation. Scale your solution only after achieving a solution-market fit
  • for validating, experiments are better than presentations. People do not necessarily act according to what they intellectually appreciate [a quick example may be you right now: who probably know some benefits in maintaining a good body posture, but perhaps was not keeping a great posture while reading this article]
  • it is better together. Combining competencies and resources will serve you well
  • things may go wrong. Be sure that your organization will be fine in case an initiative brings no ROI. Starting from ‘acceptable costs’ is better than depending on ‘expected ROI’
  • things may go right. If your initiative reaches the Growth phase, another approach is required, an efficiency/exploitation-oriented one

For a proper process:

  1. set your initial goal, what is the desirable outcome [E.g. a new service for an untapped market]
  2. get your methods, competencies, and network as adequate as possible
  3. list what needs to be done to take your initiative through the development phases
  4. estimate how much these activities and resources will cost you. Start from ‘acceptable costs’ to ‘desired profits’, and then ‘required revenue’
  5. estimate expected results/outcomes for the development phases
  6. for every estimation [of costs or outcomes] take note of its assumptions and where they came from. Even if they came from someone’s intuition, it’s fine. Take note and move on
  7. move an initiative to the next development phase only if your assumptions were validated. If your assumptions are not being met, consider: changing your initiative, changing your expectations, exploring potential opportunities opened by the latest data, cancel your initiative

Innovation is mandatory to your organization’s long-term success. It’s a habit, not an act. Don’t blindly follow trends. Be strategic, thoughtful, and intentional.

Apr 13, 2017
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