Innovation, Engine of Growth

Five Keys



Speed is Everything

Faster is always better.  Always.  Great ideas that are first to market can usually change the game... often to terms that are of your making. And though I am the first to advocate that products or services must be well-conceived and developed, instant perfection is not the goal.  In many cases, starting small in a niche market can accelerate the entire process of commercialization by providing a faster market read and a faster cycle of modification.  As a corollary, speed also applies to establishing and rapidly expanding routes to market in order to build leadership in the channel.

Focus on the Problem

More specifically, focus on the problem that the end user is having.  Precisely what is the poorly met or unmet need?  The essence of this is, of course, is seeing the market opportunity that others simply do not see.  It is not focusing on the competition (which is often reactive and incremental) but rather is staying on the offense.

Leadership is Critical

Leadership and management of innovation cannot be overstated.  Develop or hire top talent and allow them to do their job.  Leadership will drive focus on those few innovative ideas that have potential and, most importantly, that tie to desired positioning in target markets. 

Leadership will allow the correct mix of both the understanding of the creative process as well as the rigor and discipline to make sure the investment comes to fruition.  Effective leadership prevents the innovation from being  stifled by the bureaucracy or politics of the organization and removes obstacles in the path.

Risk can be Tolerated

How much risk can be tolerated in your innovation effort is highly situational.  Clearly, risks should be defined and understood with any innovative effort...and every attempt should be made to minimize them.  But assessing desirability of an innovative program is more than a simple risk-adjusted ROI computation.   The opportunity side of the equation must also be weighed.  Risk should be viewed as a factor  that will always be part of the innovation equation and as a barrier for competitors that are not as tolerant to the downside.

Measurement, Accountability and Rewards

Though innovation is difficult to measure, the outcomes can be.  Project management, product management or program management (take your pick) takes the innovation through the organization and to the marketplace.  This can and should be measured , leaders held accountable and rewards provided that are commensurate with the scale of the accomplishment.  In my experience, the larger the enterprise, the more difficult the navigation through the organization.  It takes competent leaders to champion the project--those that are willing to go the extra mile to get the job done.