Front End Flywheel, Fail Faster, Fluid Innovation

I’ve been in and out of a lot of board rooms in the last few months. I’m in selling mode, but also, in listening mode. Nearly every conversation I’ve had has me more firmly believing that one of the problems with large organization innovation is it simply moves too slow.

Now, I realize that’s a fairly obvious thought. Still, why is it that organizations are accepting of the fact that their “cycle” of innovation turns over once or twice a year? I don’t see a lot of urgency around changing this, I see a lot of acceptance. This is an opportunity to improve many are overlooking. Here’s why I think so.

I’m focused, as is Kiln (I’m a partner in a new innovation services company) on the very front end of innovation. It’s easy to understand why the back end of innovation is slowish. The back end is where you have to create physical things, prototypes, create detailed plans, do exhaustive market research, blueprints, assemblies, involve a lot of people, etc. That’s hard, and painstaking work. Also expensive work. This might be made to go faster — but it would be a hard organizational push to make the changes required.

It’s less easy to understand why the front end of the process isn’t twice as fast, even four times faster. That’s the part where it’s exploring opportunities, thinking, ideating, writing, and presenting. The problem I’m seeing out there is the hard-coupling of those processes with the more detail intensive, and expensive, back end.

So, separate them.

Have a “fly wheel” front end spinning twice as fast as the back end. Management will have to say No more often because they’ll be seeing more new business ideas. They might have to say No a Lot more often. So what? It takes almost no time to say No.

However, it will get a hot idea into the back end faster, saving a lot of time.

First in market means a great deal doesn’t it? Speed up the front end of innovation, fail faster, and get to market first.

So tell me why I’m wrong with this and I’ll shut up.


    • Penny van der Lith

      I think you are right! Many people are so obsessed with making the perfect decision that they make no decision, or stall until choice becomes irrelevant. It’s like they think that, once made, decisions become irreversible.

      Most of the time, any decision is better than no decision, and any action is better than no action because it gets the process unstuck. Most of the time, if your action/decision/choice turns out to be a less than perfect one, you have at least eliminated an option that won’t work, and if you are willing to fail fast, you end up spending less time and money than you would have spent in stuck mode.

      Also, if you pay attention to the outcome, it is easy to self correct early on because mistakes, misinterpretations, omissions, or plain old lousy ideas stimulate debate and critique. People tend to come up with ideas and solutions faster if you them something to criticize, revamp or re-engineer than they do if you simply ask them what they want – most people understand what they DON’T want far better than they understand what they do want.

Posted in Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Creativity and Self-Expression, Entrepreneurial, Idea Generation, Innovation