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Innovation – Planning for innovation – part II

We are on the topic of planning for innovation.  In the previous article I touched on goal setting (SMART and BHAG methodologies) and laid the foundation for a Monthly Execution Schedule for innovation with innovation goals for each of the first six months of the year. In this issue I want to share the innovation goals for the last six months of the year and touch on the “how” of reaching these goals.
Planning for innovation
With the compliments of Paul Williams, here are the rest of the innovation goals:
July – Think about a portfolio approach to managing your innovation pipeline. Each idea you decide to invest in should be carefully considered for risk and “audacity.” Spread your idea funding budget across safe bets, probable wins, maybe wins and long shots within your portfolio of development projects. Use these “levers” to adjust overall direction based on risk tolerance, economic reality, etc. August – Lead, don’t follow. The pursuit of “best practices” is important when you are playing catch-up to your competitors. But once you’ve caught the pack, take the lead with “next practices.” This requires a lot of courage, so be prepared to fight the risk-averse within your organization. Let your competitors pursue your “best practices.” Be a leader!  September – Data lies. Data can be constructed to tell you whatever you want to hear. Use quantitative data, as it tells one part of the overall story, but give equal weight to qualitative data; it tells another, just as important, part of the overall story. The crux of the matter is to consider the facts holistically and trust your intuition. October – Become a trend hunter. Scan your surroundings. Pick up on the soft signals of momentum. What is hot at the fringe? What is potentially cyclical that may be ready for a come-back? What are the technical experts excited about and working on? What is coming and what has already moved on? November – Demand executive leadership engagement, not just support. Innovation management should be treated as a business discipline, no different than Marketing, HR, IT or Finance. Innovation is not a one-time event at some posh off-site venue. Executive leaders should be challenged to walk the talk. They should be part of idea generation sessions. They should sit on Idea Boards to hear and decide on the fate of new ideas. They should be engaged in setting the appropriate mix of development projects in the project portfolio. December – Manage your resources effectively. That means making sure you have enough people in the right places doing the right things. It also means you have adequate amounts of funding to run the program, provide seed money to promising ideas and launch larger projects for idea execution. It means making sure that you carve out time for people to think, to come up with ideas, to search for problems to solve. Finally, it means setting up places to think, to get away from the constant rush of “right now” work, to be challenged creatively, to use tools designed to help solve problems.
These are bold goals and you are probably already thinking “how am I going to be able to make all these changes in my organisation”? I want to answer this question with the poem of the unknown monk: “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.  Now, as an old man, I realise the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realise that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world”. So the answer lies in starting the change within yourself first!
Next Time
Next time I want to focus on the link between generating ideas and implementing ideas, the foundation of innovation. I conclude with a quote from General Patton: “A good plan violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week”.

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