Pursuing Innovation

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Pursuing innovation doesn’t compel us to understand the future, except to recognize that future business sustainability relies on our relentless awareness of how customer needs and goals are evolvingover time.

Successful innovations create value for customers, strengthening those relationships, while improving differentiation, increasing revenue, reinforcing company culture, and boosting employee pride and satisfaction.
Only the largest of organizations can afford to invest specific resources in innovation; but innovation is a must-have” for all businesses to drive progress and secure sustainability, so:

  • Encourage your people to challenge widely-held assumptions, and discount those that inhibit curiosity and creativity. Establish a means where novel ideas may be shared and discussed.
  • Make it easy to research and test a new idea or process improvement without fear of failure by defining failure as a learning opportunity; one idea may trigger another. People are more creative when they feel appreciated for sharing their novel ideas; and one idea may trigger another. Cultivate innovation champions.
  • Celebrate successful innovations. Monitor the value a new idea creates in terms of new revenue, increased productivity, or reduced costs; make these results transparent to all.

If the pursuit of innovation is new for your company, these steps may help you to get started:

1. Discovery:

  • Begin with a bias towards action;
  • Confirm your innovation objectives and your expected, quantifiable benefits;
  • Solicit and compile all ideas without pre-judging potential value.

2. Ideation:

  • Choose a cross-functional team to periodically assess the proposed new projects;
  • Direct this team to identify the top 2-3 ideas by comparing the estimated amount and timing of projected benefits;
  • Clarify the stakeholders impacted by each idea and how they may be impacted;
  • Use the projected benefit assessment to select the best concept to pursue
  • Identify a project team and team leader.

3. Assessment:
Before proceeding, ask these questions:

  • Do we have the necessary motivation and will to pursue the chosen innovation?
  • Do we have the time, energy and resources to develop and implement it?
  • What is the probability of a successful implementation?

4. Prototyping:
If you decide to proceed:

  • Build and evaluate a “proof of concept” model; if acceptable, continue;
  • Develop a pre-production design and test the production process by building multiple units;
  • Evaluate full production potential, resources required and expected barriers.

5. Implementation:

  • Develop a cross-functional implementation team and a plan with goals, actions, success metrics and potential constraints;
  • Gather cross-functional feedback on the plan, then refine and launch it; monitor progress.

How does your business cultivate and implement innovations?

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