By April Bertram
Innovation Management Director
When it comes to accelerating growth with innovation, there are many paths you can take. I have outlined five areas that have proven to accelerate this type of growth in organizations.
Align with strategy. All too many times I have heard companies say they want innovation to come from everyone and everywhere with no boundaries. The downside to this approach is that you literally get ideas from everywhere and ones that may not be fully aligned with your organization’s strategy. You end up wasting resources on a project that you have no intention of commercializing and impact team moral by having to cancel the project down the road. It’s always best to give the organization growth areas with some guard rails, so that they have safe areas to innovate that are fully aligned with strategy.
Reduce risk early. How many times have you embarked on an innovation project knowing that you have some risks, but figure you will deal with them when you reach that stage in the process? This ultimately leads to re-work because you get too far down the development path to make changes. Organizations then need go all the way back to early stages of development and invest more time and people to mitigate the risk. Even worse, they decide to launch and experience limited success or even failures in the market.
It is imperative to focus on the most significant risks right away. This includes understanding external forces that can impact your innovation, as well as project and business model related risks.
Project teams should start the project by understanding these risks and identify plans to mitigate them early – not waiting until you are in that particular stage of development. If you think there will be significant challenges with manufacturing, start working on that challenge now. If you are unsure whether you are solving the right problem, investigate that immediately.
Start with early prototypes to validate your hypotheses. Are you addressing the right problem? Do you have the right target market? Does your value prop resonate with your target and does it solve the problem identified? Is it a large enough opportunity or problem to ensure financial gains? Make sure you are considering all aspects of your go-to-market strategy and focus on the areas that present the most risk first.
Utilize simple tools and processes. The way we work and innovate is ever-changing. You can’t innovate the same way you have been in years past. It’s time to brush up on new tools and practices. Have you investigated the Business Model Canvas? Can you benefit from Design Thinking or Lean Startup methodologies? Are there other emerging methodologies like Innovation Engineering that you can try? When evaluating new items, make sure you customize them for your business. Build a hypothesis of what might work and then pilot. More often than not, you will be blending together some of these methodologies and tools to get the right one that works for your company. The most important objective is that you are always investigating potential new ways of working and how they might advance your innovation efforts – not becoming stagnant.
Develop partnerships. With the pace of technological change, it’s hard to keep up by innovating on your own. You will get to market faster and likely with a smaller investment if you partner in the development process. You can engage in partnerships on a per-project basis or at a higher, strategic level. Strategic partnerships can enable innovation in multiple areas – advancing your innovation system as a whole – when you partner with customers, vendors or even competitors.
Manage as a system. If you truly want to accelerate growth through innovation, you need to look at your organization and understand all the elements that impact innovation. Prioritize the ones that can help you advance the entire system and focus on those first. I have learned that it’s a balance of adding some new tools and practices, but continuing to advance existing processes as well. Introducing too many new elements at once can overwhelm the organization and defeat the objective of accelerating growth.
I have provided some ideas on where to start accelerating your organization’s growth with innovation, now you need to start testing and learning so you can advance your organization!As Innovation Management Director at GOJO Industries, April is responsible for building, cultivating and leading the growth of a high performance innovation system. Previously, as Stage-Gate Process Manager at GOJO, she led the re-design of the NPD Process to incorporate Agile, Lean Start-Up and Design Thinking methodology., Prior to that, she was a Product Manager at The Hygenic Corporation, where she managed the Thera-Brand ® product portfolio new market development and company-wide new product innovation planning process.