How to Tip The Innovation Scale In Your Favor

Experts say up to 90% of innovation centers fail. It's an ominous statistic.     

In a world where we are inundated with innovation theories, books, consultancies, best practices and tools, you would think it would be much easier to succeed.

However, there are many documented reasons why innovation groups fail, from chasing a quarterly P&L to competing internally, poor communication and stakeholder management, and even dismissing existing products and customer footprints rather than leveraging them.

Every company strives for innovation, whether to drive revenue, increase operational efficiency or fundamentally create a halo effect in terms of brand awareness.

The 2000s have undoubtedly become the era of vast advances in data and technology, so much so that every company could arguably be called a software company. So how do companies crack the code, avoid failure and learn how to unleash untapped riches driven by innovation?

Step One: Visualize, Educate and Explore

Innovation is not a process or a manual. How does one even come up with an idea?

The answer is a complex concoction of understanding industries, opportunities and pain points, the ecosystem of players, technology and human behavior and having overall perseverance. It's likely an idea will be killed many times before fruition.

In order to come to this answer, igniting passion is crucial. One way to go about this is forming an R&D facility that allows staff to visualize and explore the data, products and solutions they supply. An R&D center acts as both a statement of intent and a catalyst for companies to drive innovation. Providing access to sandboxes, a suite of data and technologies, and allowing people to interrogate, analyze and hypothesize can also spark connections and ideas.

Throughout this process, visualizations are key to provide context. As the saying goes, if a picture is worth a thousand words then an R&D center is worth a billion.

Step Two: Define And Build

As an idea is nurtured and develops strong commercial indicators, the decision is made to operationalize it — and there are two parts to this process.

The first is software manufacturing, which has matured dramatically over the years. Cloud computing and software development life cycle technologies and practices have automated this to such a degree that companies can release software several times a day. Speed to market and subsequent feedback can be optimized at light speed.

The second part is nuanced and complex: It involves leadership, people, the organization and overall company culture.

Leadership in innovation groups should prioritize creating tangible results long-term, which requires organizational patience and enough short-term wins to enable buy-in from P&L owners. This requires deft consulting skills and a detailed understanding of the organizational structure, influencers and cultures. 

Step Three: Deploy And Scale

Deploying and scaling the innovative product, solution or platform is often a forgotten stage. The adage "build it and they will come" is unfortunately a very rare occurrence.

It really comes down to understanding the ecosystem, or in other words, the orchestrators, complementary companies and competitors that control and monetize the supply chain.

There are many innovative solutions that reach this hurdle and fail when the companies believe that the incredible functionality the solution offers will be enough.

Distribution is key to scalability, leveraging the orchestrators, forging relationships with complementary companies and ultimately making the solution easily consumable while creating a friction-free experience.

Be That 10%

Throughout history, there have been many amazing examples of leadership, passion, skill, perseverance and a little bit of luck that have cultivated innovative solutions across all industries. It's not impossible, but it takes work and a degree of thoroughness. As companies set out to drive innovation, it's imperative to follow through on improving and automating the industries they serve and fundamentally making the world a better place to live.

John Rogers
John Rogers, Executive, Innovation & Digital Insights Center

-Published on Forbes.com  September 24, 2020, How to Tip The Innovation Scale In Your Favor