Some people believe that innovation is ad hoc, a happening that is hard to explain and impossible to manage. Others go so far as to suggest that process stifles innovation. But nothing can be further from the truth.
Innovation is a process that can be managed as a means of devising a product or service concept that addresses unmet customer needs. The end result is a winning idea that gets approved for development and launch, and is ultimately a success in the market. Just like any other business process, innovation can be studied, understood, and transformed into a predictable discipline. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life doing just this.
In the end, innovation management is about using a process that helps you bring value to your customers because that’s why we’re all in business. We all want to make a difference.
At Strategyn, we tend to be renegades in the industry because we approach innovation from a “jobs-to-be-done perspective,” which is different from the ideas-first approach used in many companies. When managers and executives first read my book or attend a training program, there’s a shift in thinking, an “ah ha” moment. They get it. I get a huge charge out of that. It’s magic.
When you’re passionate about what you do, you feel energized and motivated. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a field where I get to apply my passion for innovation and creating processes to provide value to the clients we serve.
What’s most frustrating to me is that the innovation industry is plagued by poor results. Studies document failure rates at 70 to 90 percent. It amazes me that business executives accept this. In what other industry are 70 to 90 percent failure rates deemed acceptable?
I participated in a panel discussion this spring where I challenged this and talked about Strategyn’s process, where we’re seeing success rates of more than 80 percent. Several competitors in the audience actually got hostile, saying it wasn’t possible. The panelists got defensive. The reaction was quite interesting. But obviously I hit a raw nerve.
What frustrates me the most is comfort with the status quo. The process of innovation hasn’t been innovated for years. It seems ironic, doesn’t it?
Innovation managers clearly have a challenge. Many feel that they’re Lone Rangers, fighting internal battles, politics, and ignorance. Often, there’s disagreement about what innovation is, what steps comprise the process, what inputs are needed, and in what order the process should be executed.
In this environment, being an innovation manager takes new learning, vision and commitment. It’s not easy. You have to be a truth-seeker, possibly a change agent. In the current economic climate, the innovation manager faces challenges on two fronts – the internal demands I just discussed and the external pressures of innovating in a bad economy.
When I work with innovation managers on internal issues, I walk them through this five-step process:
Using a “jobs-to-be-done” approach takes much of the risk out of innovation. Convincing management that 80 percent success rates are possible is part of the answer. And once management sees that, the innovation manager will no longer be a Lone Ranger. He or she will be the innovation leader.