Flaws are Failure Laws. Rules to follow for the failure of a system. Every business context and organization has a set of uncontested rules. Those working mostly well for the running business but creating failure drivers for innovation. Finding and fixing them in your business context creates a winning platform. A compilation is here for reference.
Flaws of Innovation
- Rejecting ideas that at first glance appear to be small. Going after only big-bets.
- Assuming that only new products count – not new services or improved processes
- Multiple groups/divisions launching similar solutions at once that confuse customers and increase internal complexity.
- Applying the same tight planning, budgeting and controls like existing business operations.
- Applying the same performance metrics and reward system like existing business operations.
- Isolating and Insulating innovative pursuits and established enterprises from each other. Creating new and rigid silos!
- Creating and differentially treating two classes of corporate citizens – those who have all the fun (innovators/ intrapreneurs) and those who slog and make the money (steady-state-business-managers)
- Allowing innovators/ intrapreneurs to be idea-hoppers than becoming new-venture-builders.
- Assuming that innovation teams should be led by the best technical people than intrapreneurs
- Assuming that all intrapreneurs learn-on-the-job than providing a head-start through coaching/mentoring in a structured way. Pushing people to their next level of incompetence than preparing them for the job of an intrapreneur.
Remedies for these flaws
- The portfolio approach to innovation – a mixture of big-bets and bouquet of mid-range ideas while supporting small and continuous improvement
- Encouraging: product, process, technology, and business-model-innovations with growth as a focus
- Controlled experiments supported by the unified Go-to-market approach
- Flexibility in planning, execution and control systems with Time and money boxing method.
- Innovation KPIs and performance measurements
- Continuous interaction and interchange of resources between existing and new initiatives.
- The democratic process of operations and periodic rotation of people between new and existing business.
- Aligning intrapreneurs with corporate objectives of creating new opportunities for growth and making accountable for incubation and development. Defining clear exit and transition methods and governance mechanisms.
- Getting the best intrapreneur to run/lead the pursuit, supported by a competent team.
- Training, Coaching/ Mentoring intrapreneurs to pursue building-new-venture as a career.
Finding and fixing flaws in your system that hinders innovation is an essential first step toward building an entrepreneurial culture.
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Growth is a necessity for every organization. If you are not growing, you are stagnating. If you are not growing in your ability, you are getting worse. Continuous learning and growth should be part of your daily routine.
Economically, a minimum growth is essential to meet cost-of-living-adjustments. Growth in abilities is important to remain relevant to changing needs of the market, competition, and customers. Growth is essential to sustain what you are doing today. If your company is not growing, people at work cannot grow. You lose people. You lose the ability to grow and serve more customers. It might trigger a downward spiral.
Focus on growth. Identify opportunities, ideas, and customers who help you grow. Work on projects, initiatives, and solutions that will help you grow with existing customers first. Reach new buyers and markets while retaining growth focus on current opportunities and operations. Support programs that yield growth over those who can alter the path of progress. Growth and fulfillment come from abandoning practices that hinder progress and momentum while embracing new ones. Innovate to grow. Innovate to overcome hindrances of progress and momentum.
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Barriers to innovation come from a variety of sources. Two major sources are the people involved and the process followed. People make all the difference. Right from sponsors, participating members, supporting teams and you as a key member/leader. Corporate innovation programs are supposed to follow a predictable process to help in governance and resource management. Level of detail of the process and rigidity around “how” something is done decides the effectiveness of the process and hence the innovation itself.
While you are on the intrapreneurial journey, watch out for these five critical barriers and cross-them-over, quickly.
Self-doubt and Worthiness of the Problem: Working on a wrong problem or not-so-worthy one is not going to help you or the organization. Clear the self-doubt on the worthiness of the problem. Establish that is a good one to solve in the context of your business and your customers.
Judging ideas too quickly. Questioning everything to conclude quickly by saying NO is what you get trained at work. Convergent thinking is the most paid attribute at work. But if you are on Innovation journey, you should reverse that to saying YES, let us try it out. Once you get-over the NO hump and explore thoroughly, you might find the valuable idea. Suspend judgment. Adopt experimentation.
Stopping with the first good idea. There’s always more than one way of doing anything. Why do you stop at the first good idea? While on Innovation journey, explore. Experiment with more options in the beginning. Let the good one emerge out of the lot. It also helps you with a Plan B or C, when required. When you find a good idea, log it and look for some more. Adopt time and money boxing. Don’t boil the ocean. Don’t rest with too small a portion either.
Following rules that don’t exist. Many times, you may assume that something can’t be done, without verifying it. Rules are made for regular operational businesses. Controls and governance mechanisms exist to support running of the business. When you are on the journey of changing-the-business, you might have to change and make new rules. Find and fix rules that don’t fit. Don’t just follow by assuming you can’t do it.
Failing to get sponsorship and supporters. You can’t run a submarine project for a long time. You should never start one in the first place. The first skill to master is convincing yourself and others on the idea you wish to pursue. You will need that through-out the journey. Get it first. Get your idea sponsored. Garner support from people who can help you make it a reality. Heroes are honored in war. At work, you need to be a hero by being the future-shifter. This needs sponsorship and support. Get it to cross the barrier.
Being SAFE at work is an essential need to be an effective Intrapreneur.
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When you are expected to deliver the best, everything you do is considered part of the job. No-one expects you to deliver not-the-best. You don’t expect anything lower than required from anyone. Still, you find at times people delivering lower than their best. At the same time, you do come across those who pleasantly surprise you with what they deliver, how they serve. It is not the capability issue. It is not even the experience issue.
Some people have that inherent desire of putting service ahead of everything else. They ensure that satisfying the customer to the fullest extent possible is their job. They believe that there’s no room for writing everything in the job description. It is just a direction, the license to serve and be remarkable. They find time and energy to do more than perceived limits of the job. Go the extra mile, without counting it. Volunteer where it matters and always delivers a little more than you expect out of their job. They sow the seed of happiness in everyone touched by their work.
It is easy to practice this and make it a habit. All you need to do is go beyond what you believe is the limit of your job. Question how best to serve, without questioning what’s in it for you. Put-service-first attitude to work. Find how to make yourself pleasantly surprised if you are being served and adopt the same method. A little more than expected is a good seed. Spray it well, routinely. Your craft will get naturally remarkable.
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Teams are the way current generation companies organise for performance. Operational efficiencies and reusability needs of skills & experiences make it difficult for members to remain in the same team for a longtime. Knowing each other and performing well in cohesion becomes a challenging act. You need to adopt techniques that help in building a great team within a short time. Three key things that help in the process are – democratic ways-of-working, outcome based relationships, bound by time & money boxing method of planning.
Democratic ways-of-working where as a team you define the goals, controls and rules/systems helps in building active participation and transparency. This helps in creating active ownership and the necessary fabric of trust, dependency. Make this the first task of the team. People will get to know each other well and feel at home quickly.
Outcome based relationships eliminate the barriers of hierarchy. Contributions overrule the roles and business titles that might create inefficiency. People will focus on their performance and bring their best. Being in the self-designed system of working, members fill in for each other’s gaps and team wins.
When you bind this team with time and money boxing method of planning, you build intensity and avoid unnecessary delays, arguments and detours. Experimentation with a focus to find quick and better alternatives prevails. Every output/ outcome finds rightful use. Team moves in cohesion towards their set goal. You build a remarkable team and the craft!
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Brainstorming guidelines dictate that you should suspend judgment while collecting ideas. Every sponsor, investor and paying customer demands a good idea. You would like to associate and build on a good idea. How to test if it is a good idea?
You should develop and routinely use clear guidelines for qualifying ideas as good or otherwise, based on your business context. A good idea for someone not necessarily is the same for you and your context. Overcoming individual resistance and managing uncertainties associated with the implementation of the idea is very critical to extracting the potential of the idea. Innovation is the value obtained from actual use, not the promise of potential. Results matter. Nothing else.
The economic value of innovation is determined by the quality of implementation than just the quality of ideas. So, to test the quality of an idea, you can use the lens of implementation, an ability to extract value.
You can test the idea through these filters:
- If you can’t implement it, it’s not a good idea
- If you can’t implement it well, it’s not a good idea.
- If you can’t afford to implement it, it’s not a good idea
- If you can’t afford to implement it well, it’s not a good idea
- If you refuse to implement it, it’s not a good idea.
It might be a good idea for someone else, but not for you. Find the one that fits and implement it with right pace, precision, and passion. Leave the rest aside, quickly and gracefully.
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Everything, without exception, requires additional energy and order to maintain itself. Everything won’t last very long without attention and fixing and keeping in order. Existence is chiefly maintenance.
Look at the tech-world. Brand new phones will slow down over use. Apps weaken with use. Code corrodes. Fresh Release of Software will immediately begin to wear out. The more complex the thing, the more attention it will require. The assault of the changing digital landscape adds more complexity. The solution tech-world has been using for a very long time is upgrades. Upgrades help with providing the fix for known/reported issues, for new features/ functionalities/ performance improvements and so on… If you neglect ongoing minor upgrades, the change builds up so much that the eventual big upgrade reaches traumatic proportions. It might need a surgery to fix and get back to routine.
Continuous upgrades have become critical for systems and hence they are mostly automatic for a majority of functions. Tech-life is a series of endless upgrades. They result in changes, displacement and even complete deletion of features/ capabilities while adding so many new – features, performance, and capabilities. This makes you a newbie all the time! You need to explore, learn and adapt, continuously. If you embrace this as a routine at a personal level, it helps you keep up with the changes and be relevant to the dynamics at work. Continuously upgrade your skills, tools, and methods. It is a necessity – a hygiene to stay fit for work.
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Creative thinking is all about figuring out new and improved ways to do anything. Rewards of success at home, at work and in the community hinge on finding ways to do things better. Creative thinking come-to-light when constrained with key resources required to achieve/ realize the single-most-important desire.
At the core of creative thinking, your belief system plays a significant role. If you believe strongly and associate yourself with the same, the work you do becomes beyond being just a job-to-do. This is what makes people go out and do anything for their loved ones. Look at how the first generation of professionals is made from poor families. Or how people from tough families pursue their dreams of being financially independent. Irrespective of the education, experience and the environment, creative thinking works its magic to learn, adapt and change the entire landscape.
In order to cultivate creative thinking, you have to become receptive to ideas. Ideas from all sources – cross-functional teams, top companies from other industry segments and the newcomers/ start-ups. Secondly, You should actively pursue doing – experimentation of the prioritized list of ideas relentlessly. Thirdly, focus always on progress – moving ahead at least a single step in the direction of your desire. When you routinely do these, creative thinking becomes your nature. Experiments teach you how to become a master at finding and pursuing new and improved ways of working with the constrained resources and the context that matters the most.
Cultivate creative thinking. It helps at work and at all times through the journey of life.
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Market research is a good tool to understand customer behaviour with existing products, players and options. It fails many times when used for predicting acceptance and potential of new category products and solutions. Especially in estimating consumer demand due to changes in behaviour induced by your new products and solutions.
Consumer behaviour changes depend on the real use of products and services. You have to get the product/solution into the hands of real users to predict the success in the market. Market research alone will not fill the gap in predictions. Always-beta is the best way to create market leading products and solutions. Instead of learning late and creating own barriers to success by using poorly analysed market research data, adopt market experimentation as a tool to gain necessary insight.
When consumers learn to use your products/ solutions, they let you learn how to present, price and provide the products/solutions. Market experimentation shows what you need to do to turn an innovation into a marketplace success.
In place of allowing dispassionate market research seeking an objective yes or no, let passionate intrapreneurs build and take to customers, usable products and solutions – working prototypes. Better still, release beta-products for enthusiastic customers to help you build remarkable products/solutions.
While building innovative products based on thorough market research, many companies tend to consider negative marketplace results as poor management performance. Market experimentation however helps to discover new and right opportunities even in failed ones.
Make the best use of market experimentation than sticking only to market research.
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Risk is part of every innovation journey. Corporation’s risk tolerance defines its ability to innovate better. Either under the cloud of fiduciary responsibility or inherent risk aversion, corporate executives commit innovation budgets and resources, far lower than they can afford. Surprisingly, same corporations take big risks. They dare to acquire companies for multi-million dollars but can’t risk a small percentage on internal innovation. Why is this so?
Partly, this is a result of the way corporations are evaluated by investment community. Corporate executives feel free to invest capital in ways accepted by the market. They spend a lot more to make acquisitions work. History shows that acquisitions hardly succeed. They are not better than rate of failed new ventures. But the pursuit of accelerated growth through acquisition continues. Risk tolerance to known failure paths seems higher than to small unknown bets – true innovative experiments.
In large corporations that don’t gracefully support intrapreneurs, innovation becomes a lip service. Status-quo prevails. If you want to be innovative, there’s no need to take big-bets. Democratise innovation. Create discretionary budgets of money, resources and support self-starters. Start small. Build confidence. Increase risk tolerance to innovate better.
If you are an intraprenuer, pick meaningful pursuits, not happy-engineering projects. Help your sponsors to help you by focusing on value, than privileges. You are the catalyst to build risk-tolerance-capability of your corporation.
be a #deamerdoer.