5 Innovation Program Mistakes that even great Companies make

Innovation Program Mistakes

Formalization can go a long way to make employees feel more comfortable with thinking outside the box and speaking up when they have a new idea.                     

Trae Tessmann|
July 2, 2017

No innovation program is perfect, but many are repeating the same mistakes across industries.

Organizations of all sizes need an innovation program and an idea tracking software to keep their products, services, and operations evolving and heading in the right direction. Still, regardless of money, resources, time, and people behind their innovation program, many of their efforts are falling short due to their failure to follow some basic rules when it comes to company-wide innovation.

These are the top 5 mistakes that keep an innovation program from reaching its full potential.

Unclear strategy for your innovation program. The efforts behind your innovation program should point towards a goal on a project-to-project and year-by-year basis. You can’t just ask for ideas and hope for the best. From how you’re collecting ideas to the implementation process, formalize your strategy, create a platform and process to follow, and keep testing it for optimization.

In a similar light, the goals of projects within your innovation program should be clear as well. Don’t just look for new product ideas. Look for product ideas that could help push your sales in your 2nd leading market up 10% by the end of the year. Besides strategic management and innovation, context and more concrete goals help to direct your efforts and keep everyone on the same page.

Narrow engagement within your innovation program. Since your innovation program is (hopefully) targeting improvements to your products, services, operations and more, it should value the perspectives and ideas of more than a select number of individuals, particularly the employees that interact with those products and services every day.

While top management will have the final say for new product approvals, that doesn’t mean your employees shouldn’t be involved in the ideation, review, and development process too. Leveraging an idea management system to collect and review ideas for specific challenges within the organization is a powerful way to boost engagement in your innovation program, and act on innovative ideas that were previously trapped in the heads of your employees.

Weak vetting for ideas coming through your innovation program. If you’re getting ideas coming from throughout the organization, they should be met with more than just a yes or no by management, let alone left to rot in a suggestion box. Opportunities for employees to collaborate, leave feedback, and work together to improve them creates a stronger culture of innovation, and helps to deliver more high-potential ideas to management.

Once an idea meets the first stage of approval by management, it needs to be fleshed out. A plan of action should be put together for testing and building case studies to give management a clearer vision for how it could work in the future before any physical or implementation work is done. For ideas that aren’t approved, feedback is crucial to keep employees motivated and engaged in the innovation process, and to learn what they can do better next time.

Lack of action on ideas produced by your innovation program. All the innovative, game-changing, bottom-line boosting ideas and feedback in the world are useless if your innovation program isn’t designed to take action. While easier said than done, bringing projects to life instead of just letting them sit in a suggestion box and dedicating resources to them can be the scariest part for an organization.

To mitigate some of this risk, your innovation program should allow and empower employees to take the first steps with their ideas themselves. As we mentioned before, building case studies, doing customer interviews, and creating a plan of action can all be the responsibility of the innovator. This simple process empowers them with the confidence to play a larger role in the organization and streamlines the development process to avoid stagnation with new ideas.

Poor support for those involved with your innovation program. If you’ve gone as far as to empower your employees to take their ideas further, don’t neglect the support they’ll need along the way. They can only do so much on their own and without the guidance of management.

Offer opportunities for mentorships or meetings with management, provide information they may need, answer questions they have, and provide feedback each step of the way. Formalization can go a long way to make employees feel more comfortable with thinking outside the box and speaking up when they have a new idea. Ensure they have a path they can take to see their ideas from just writing on paper to fully scoped out projects that can be put into development.

You may have an innovation program in place, but how are you managing it?

About Trae Tessmann

Co-founder of Ideawake

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