Innovation has a dark side. While everyone wants to be “more innovative”, new products fail at alarming rates. When your business is to create new ideas, new technologies, and new markets, failing more than half the time is troubling indeed.
On the bright side, however, innovation is more accessible today than ever. Industries share their product development processes openly and companies partner with suppliers, distributors, and even competitors. We have learned to integrate customers into the development cycle with open innovation and Design Thinking. How do organizations continue to move forward, making progress with speed-to-market and changing internal performance?
The Purpose for Change
Read on or watch the 20-second summary to learn how you can change your innovation performance.
As senior managers present an argument to increase innovation performance, we have to explain the need for change. Many people in the organization see only a narrow slice of the business. R&D professionals, for instance, view their daily work and can see frequent, small gains in knowledge. Marketers identify new insights from customer focus groups when they are held. Project management professionals view small successes in meeting deadlines and milestones. From each individual or functional perspective, things appear okay.
Leaders inspire innovation and significant performance improvements must first demonstrate that a change is needed. Teams build cohesion around a common purpose in the threat of competition. New product development (NPD) teams can accelerate performance in time-to-market by uniting behind a common goal with a tight deadline. This is especially important for virtual teams.
Simplify Work Processes
A friend was recently telling me a story of bureaucracy. She didn’t call it bureaucracy, but her frustration was obvious. To implement a change that sped up the process and was a change that operations desired, she had to obtain approvals from her boss’ boss, the operator’s boss, and a person in the IT department. To submit the change order, she needed to get access to an antiquated computer system for which the organization had no internal training.
If you want to improve innovation performance, you need to simplify your processes and procedures. Agile processes, like Scrum, offer the advantage of focused teamwork and quick feedback from customers. The Agile Manifesto, commands us to emphasize people and interactions over paperwork and bureaucracy. Let your NPD teams work on what they do best – designing and developing new features and technologies.
Measure What Matters
Human beings are programmed to perform our best against the metrics by which our behavior is measured. If your dad gave you a dollar for every hour you were quiet on a road trip, you could manage to be silent for hours on end. If your boss measures efficiency to award your bonus, you will strive to eliminate waste.
Innovations take time to pay off. Short-term metrics drive short-term performance resulting in mundane, incremental products. Developing new technologies and new markets are long-term investments and innovation rewards must recognize learning and growth as a purpose of new product development research, as well as product profitability. Building effective, cross-functional teams is a stepping stone in the journey of improving innovation performance.
Improving Innovation Performance
Innovation is important in every organization. They say if businesses don’t innovate, they die. Customers demand new and better products and services, and companies no longer have the advantage of geographical or technological monopolies. To improve innovation performance, we must share the driving purpose and strategy. Innovation requires change and as flagship innovation leaders, we must communicate the need for change.
Next, innovation succeeds when creativity is unhindered. Simplify your processes and procedures and let the NPD teams be free to do their work without complicated bureaucracy or reporting authority. Finally, measure what matters. Innovation is a long-term adventure where learning is paramount. Experimentation often results in short-term failure yet innovation leaders value knowledge above short-term stock prices.
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I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. I am an experienced professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or area code 281 + phone 280-8717 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.
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