Ever heard the expression, “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing?” When a company declares itself devoted to innovation, without actually having a plan in place to track and implement ideas, that’s an example of the expression in action.
Turning great ideas into reality is a must for all businesses, and you can’t afford to rely on luck. Careful planning, i.e., an innovation program, focuses your efforts and improves your chance of success. And if you’re not systematically capturing them, you’re likely spinning your wheels and losing out on lots of great ideas.
Here are three reasons why an innovation program is essential:
1. Harness great ideas and keep them moving forward
Like any endeavor, innovation requires goals and an action plan for meeting them. Hoping bursts of inspiration will simply come to your team in a flash of insight, and manifest within moments of the thought landing in your head, is like wishing for a fairy godmother to get you to the ball. Could it happen? Maybe. But which option seems like a better plan: sitting around waiting for inspiration, or making it happen by constantly cultivating ideas? Yes an innovation program foregoes the need for a fairy godmother – at least in this case.
2. Weed out not so great ideas
Yes, you have a brilliant team, creative as all get-out, but not every idea that comes down the pike is necessarily “the one” that will rock your customers’ world or transform your business model.
Operating in an innovation free-for-all, chasing those flashes of insight when they pop into your consciousness, might give you an adrenaline rush, but little else. And realizing you’ve yet again spent time and resources on something that wasn’t quite worthwhile, and – oh yeah, you kind of tried something similar three months ago and it didn’t catch then either is pretty depressing.
An innovation program will help you keep track of what’s fresh and exciting, what’s on the back burner, what’s been experimented with and failed. Best of all, it will track what is testing well and showing promise. You’ll always know whether you’re backing the right horse or if it’s time to move on.
3. Inspire internal and external stakeholders (via crowdsourcing) to do more
There needs to be a team approach to your innovation efforts unless you enjoy limiting yourself. The days of silos and departments and separation are over. Now areas like customer service, social marketing, and – you guessed it – innovation, are on everyone’s radar. And that’s a good thing, because it could be your CEO’s second assistant or one of your clients or customers who has that million-dollar idea that changes everything.
That’s not to say innovation should be everyone’s job though – because when something is everyone’s job, it’s no one’s job. Small teams, led by Innovation Program Managers or Innovation Program Leaders, need to lead the effort and loop in SMEs to evaluate ideas in specific areas. But using an innovation program to bring everyone into the fold to crowdsource ideas not only increases your chances of catching lightning in a bottle, it creates a sense of investment for everyone who’s part of the program. Can you say “loyal employee/customer for life?” That’s what everyone who was part of the team will be when an idea they contributed to takes hold.
Oh, and one last thought – when you have that great idea, it’s more than likely that one of your competitors has had it too (or will soon enough). Don’t get beat by disorganization. Get your innovation program in place now. You can thank us later.
What do YOU think is most important for innovation success? Tell us in the comments!
And test your ability to predict the future against our innovation predictions for 2015.