Through the years, we’ve worked with innovation leaders whose primary challenge has been moving past the hit or miss mentality that is so common in our field. After all, when most of us think of innovation, words like “consistency” and “stability” don’t exactly spring to mind. We take for granted that efforts pushing us past our regular business practices naturally come with a significant degree of risk, challenge, and failure. And when trying to get their companies to fund innovation initiatives, many of the leaders we work with run headlong into this problem. After all, business people want to mitigate risk and aim for consistency and predictability in their daily operations. To be frank, most of our clients are ill prepared to assuage those concerns.
In my early days as an analyst and researcher at Forester, I spent a lot of time investigating automation, design thinking, and digital transformation. One of things that stood out from the hundreds of interviews I conducted with executives was the accepted belief that 99% of the ideas and experiments they ran were destined to fail. It was a “swing for the fences” mindset where everyone was perfectly happy to strike out waiting for the one homerun that would rocket their company past its competition.
Fast forwarding to today, I find that many of our clients still don’t achieve consistent results and still accept a high rate of failure as routine. That might be okay if you’re a huge company with a billion dollar R&D budget, but most of the people we work with have a fraction of those resources and a much lower tolerance for risk in the executive suite. If nine of the 10 ideas that you put forward as an innovation leader fail, you’re not going to remain in that job at that company for long.
As part of our Performance Innovation Accelerator Coaching Program, our team has defined and cataloged the conditions that need to be in place to drive consistent innovation results and outcomes. With a looming recession requiring innovation leaders to make a strong case for a departmental investment, I believe now is the perfect time to share some of our learnings.
If I were to break it down into a formulaic approach, it’s as straightforward as High Performance X Innovation = Consistent Results. Unfortunately, many teams focus on the Innovation portion of this formula while neglecting the X factor of High Performance. But what do we mean by high performance and how do you arrive at it? The following tips are designed to help guide you become a higher performing leader and team member, which will ultimately increase the success rate of you innovation programs:
- Define your personal mission statement. Clarity of mission is the most important thing you can have in your role as an innovation leader. Knowing what you are trying to accomplish drives everything that comes afterward, but, oddly, isn’t always properly documented. One of our product owners at Digital FastForward defined their mission as making sure people on the project teams he’s working with have a great experience. We all hate projects that don’t go right and the tension that accompanies them. His mission was to run projects that team members actually enjoyed and that mission influenced every small decision he made while running them. In the heat of battle, if you’re not anchored in your personal mission statement, you can easily lose both focus and control of your projects.
- Document your metrics. I admit that this is planning 101, but you’d be surprised to learn how many innovation programs are running with poorly-defined, or even completely missing, performance indicators. How do you measure your impact without real metrics for innovation? Not having good metrics means not committing to a target or holding yourself accountable for your projects and it’s one of the primary reasons we see teams with a 90%+ project failure rate.
- Build a full toolkit. What are the tools that you will use to drive innovation? Too many people think that simply subscribing to design thinking and design sprints is enough. It isn’t. Depending on what innovation idea you are cultivating, think through what you’ll need to stock your toolkit with to succeed. This speaks not only to the methodology you’ll use (brainstorming sessions, personality profiles, etc.) but the technology. There are many available tools for low code and design thinking projects that can help you achieve your desired outcomes. Make sure you have them at hand.
- Have a playbook. The playbook is an absolute must to combine everything above into a functional, executable roadmap for everything you’re trying to accomplish during the year. You cannot have consistent results if you do not have a playbook that defines your mid-to-long term goals. We recommend refreshing that playbook annually to make sure you are remaining focused and adhering to the goals you set for yourself.
During our Performance Innovation Accelerator Coaching Program, we dig into each of these items in detail and help leaders advance their departments to the next level. Many participants come to us having completed a course in design thinking, but realize the need for assistance with the very specific issues they face in their daily work lives. Our coaching programs are designed to get you to the next level of mastery, which translates into better and more consistent innovation results.
To join us in our next session, apply here. As a special offer, we’re providing a one-on-one innovation coaching session before and after the program with your’s truly, in addition to a chance to win two tickets to the Porsche Experience Racetrack. Drive, accelerate and advance your innovation programs with us today!