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Innovation – Planning for Innovation

In the previous article I discussed the setting of innovation goals for yourself and for the organisation.  There are lots of schemes and best practices for goal setting, the most renowned being the SMART approach (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) and Jim Collins’ BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for setting strategic objectives.  However, setting goals is only one part of the equation, in order to reach the goals the organisation needs to plan and perform the necessary activities as well.
Planning for innovation
Planning for innovation is not any different than planning for any other organisational objective or activity, whether it is planning a specific project, mapping the organisation’s strategy, or setting sales-, productivity-, and financial goals. Planning probably means different things to different people, but if you want to go down to the fundamentals of planning, for me it boils down to 5W1H, sometimes also called the “5 Wives 1 Husband” technique. This technique is about figuring out the What, When, Where, Who, Why and How for reaching your objectives.  The technique takes you through the process of thinking through everything that needs to be done, by when and by whom in order to achieve your goal.  You will find that resource capacity is usually the main constraint and most of the planning revolves around this issue.  Once the plan is in place, the real hard work starts in terms of committing resources and actually performing the activities!  
On the subject of planning for innovation, I have found this excellent Innovation Monthly Execution Schedule developed by Paul Williams, and I would like to share it with you in order to assist you with your innovation planning for this year.  Due to space constraints, I will share the first six months now, and in the next issue the last six months of the year.
January – Stop taking orders and start finding solutions. Ask “How do we do things now and how can we do those things better?” Become a partner in solving the real problem vs. just blindly producing what the customer thinks they need.  February – Innovation is hard work.  Stop pretending that it is the result of a few geniuses in your organisation.  Set up appropriate resource assignments. Break the work down into manageable pieces.  Challenge everyone, from the CEO to the Receptionist, on finding problems to solve and coming up with the ideas that solve them.  March – Don’t “forecast the future.” Understand that you invent and create the future. You have more control over the future than you know. You need to be thinking beyond this quarter and into the next, and the next, and the next.  You need to create the “next big thing” before your competitor does.  “Imagine the future…Make it happen”.  April – Create effective and efficient processes, but be flexible. Create a process for challenging people to come up with ideas. Create a process for gathering and considering the ideas. Create a process for testing the ideas. Create a process for figuring out if the idea will make money. But be flexible…rigidity kills innovation.  May – Be clear on what innovation means to you and your customers. Innovation is one of those terms that can take on multiple meanings. For me, it means anything new that provides value to someone.   New can mean “new to you” or “new to your customers” vs. “new to the world”.  The idea here is to define and document it so there is no confusion.   June – Focus on your internal structures. What is the make-up of your innovation team? Would you be better served by an Innovation Center of Excellence model instead? What about process, governance, resources and leadership engagement? Are you helping people or getting in the way?

Next Time
In the following article I will continue with the last six months of the Monthly Execution Schedule and share some more ideas and tips on the concept of planning for innovation.  I conclude with a quote from the famous painter Pablo Picasso: “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success”.

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