A strong and successful innovation program (and the ideas that fuel it) needs structure, and it would be foolish to assume otherwise.
Great ideas are just that – ideas – without proper vetting, planning, and implementation. But even before ideas are coming in, your innovation program needs to be optimized for peak efficiency and effectiveness.
New ideas are great, but hold little value if they aren’t taken seriously, and useless if they don’t fit your organization. So before you take on another “game-changing” project that ends up wasting time, money, and resources, keep an eye out for the following.
These are 10 of the most common mistakes that will turn your well-intended innovation program into a black-hole of disappointment.
1. Absence of clear Goals – Are you looking to solve a specific problem, or just jumping at any new idea that looks profitable? It might sound obvious, but setting attainable and concise goals for your innovation program is a crucial but often overlooked part of your improvement efforts.
2. Shortage of fresh Approaches – If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right? Wrong. A shortage of new perspectives, ideas, and approaches to problems and opportunities shackles your innovation program, and prevents you from realizing breakthrough concepts from previously unheard parties.
3. Failure to Validate – A new idea or project might sound like a game-changer, but who else thinks so? A lack of validation for a problem by those affected by it (employees, customers, suppliers, etc.) could leave you working on an idea that no one wants or needs.
4. Inaccurate Projections – Even if you’ve successfully identified a new problem or opportunity, the return on your investment needs to be worth the effort. The importance of measuring the resources, time, and people necessary to complete a project vs. its benefits to the bottom-line can’t be overstated.
5. Poor Strategic Planning – When a new project is approved, your innovation program should have a designated path for it to take. With a set series of steps, an allotted schedule, and continuous monitoring, projects are pushed onward or killed if they aren’t meeting objectives.
6. Insufficient Leadership – Whether executives, management, the innovation team, or front-line employees, it’s up to someone to ensure the innovation program is pumping out new projects and those projects are moving forward. Assign responsibilities and hold people accountable.
7. Breakdowns in Communication – From the individuals in charge of the innovation program to the employees affected by the projects and changes they’re producing, everyone needs to know what’s expected of them. Poor knowledge sharing and a lack of updates only causes confusion.
8. Lack of Motivation – Innovation is exciting! Everyone wants to improve, but the flair of a new idea can wear off quickly. Maintaining employee engagement and morale for everyone involved in your innovation program is crucial to the success of a new idea’s life-cycle.
9. Improper/No Testing – A successful innovation program thrives through building case-studies and employing test groups before full-scale implementation. Just like any experiment, start small and improve a project gradually to limit the effects of potentially damaging issues.
10. Failure to Learn – From research and testing to implementation and monitoring, there are countless opportunities to learn and improve a project throughout its life, as well as your innovation program. Even (and especially) when things fail, seize the opportunity to find out what went wrong, and what you can do better next time.
Sure, you’ve got an Innovation Program in place.
But is your Company actually ready to Innovate?