The Year is Half Over, Where is Your Innovation?

Painting Title_064The Year is Half Over, Where is Your Innovation?

Underway?

Running like a Swiss Watch?

Missing in Action?

Innovation Peeps: The year is nearly half over. Okay, in a month it will be officially half over. I’m doing this with seven months left this year so that you might get a running start on an innovation initiative — an “FEI Cycle” that you can complete by year end. FEI stands for Front-End-of-Innovation.

This is the perfect time to take a half-year checkpoint on your innovation efforts because there is still time to get some significant work done in 2014. On July 1, you’ll have six months left to get something done, or, complete something already underway. Consider the next thirty days your assess, plan, and recover effort for innovation. 

Here’s the updated Half-Year Innovation Checkpoint Survey and Discussion Guide, suitable to print and take to your assessment meeting. The best possible score is 40. Each question is on a 1 to 10 scale with 10 being the most positive. If you have a perfect score you’re either Apple or you’re lying. Your industry might have faster cycles than most, if so, use the following questions for discussion — the scale might not work for you. Still, for most companies, the following scale is a pretty good indicator.

I’d be interested to hear — what’s your score? And what are you going to do about it?

  1. Do you have a formal innovation process in place?
    • No. Give yourself a 1.
    • Sort of. We’re working on developing one. Give yourself a 3 if the plan is to document your process by year end.
    • Nearly done. Your formal process will be ready to “run” by July 1. Give yourself a 5.
    • Yes, and we have an FEI cycle in mid-process. Give yourself a 7.
    • Yes. At least one FEI cycle done already this year. Give yourself a 10.
  2. How many front-end-of-innovation “cycles” have you accomplished so far this year? An FEI cycle is not the entire process, let’s say it begins with an empty white board and ends with a management-approved concept pushed into your product development (or service, or process improvement) pipeline.
    • If you’ve not started an FEI this year, give yourself a 1.
    • If you have one underway and are about half way through, give yourself a 4.
    • If you’ve completed one and are standing pat (no more this year!), give yourself a 5.
    • If you’ve completed one and have another planned, 6.
    • If you’re well into your second FEI, 7.
    • If you’ve done two FEI cycles, 8.
    • If you’ve done more than two FEI cycles, 10.
  3. How many concepts or prototypes have you submitted, presented, or pitched for official approval? These are refined ideas that you believe have commercial potential (or cost savings, or process improvement potential) and you’ve formally presented.
    • Zero, give yourself a 1
    • One to Five, give yourself a 3
    • Six to Ten, give yourself a 5
    • Eleven to Fifteen, give yourself a 7
    • Over Fifteen, give yourself a 10
  4. How many concepts or prototypes have been approved? These are concepts that are in the “development” pipeline. Generally this means management is committed to investing money and time in more development, testing, etc.
    • Zero, give yourself a 1
    • One to Three, give yourself a 3
    • Four to Six, give yourself a 5
    • Seven to Nine, give yourself a 7
    • Ten or Over, give yourself a 10

Any score less than 25 is a failing grade. Between 26 and 30 — not too shabby but room for acceleration. Between 30 and 40 — your formal FEI innovation process is working (and hopefully your back-end is keeping up).

Discussion Guide: Other things to discuss, consider, and act upon with regard to the Half-year Checkpoint:

How many ideas have you generated?

It’s popular to say that ideas are the easy part. True enough, an idea without implementation is worthless. But if you don’t have any ideas, or very few, you haven’t done the easy part. And contrary to popular opinion it’s not quite as easy as all that. Breakthrough ideas don’t grow on trees. If you haven’t got any boffo new ideas, time to get an idea initiative going, like now, before the year is over.

How much effort has been spent “studying” innovation process?

Look, I’ve got nothing against process (I wrote a book about creative problem solving process, Jack’s Notebook), but process alone is not The Answer. I’ve seen many great organizations waste a great deal of time navel gazing and developing a process that is obsolete the day it is published. A one page process that everybody follows and understands is better than an 80 page thesis that everybody ignores. Articulate a process on one page, and then, get the heck after it.

Is it unclear who’s in charge of innovation at your organisation?

Look around the organization you’re involved with — what’s your sense of things happening between the cracks? A great deal of innovation happens in the dark corners when nobody is watching and a lot of innovation is done informally. If the cracks aren’t sprouting innovation weeds, AND nobody knows who’s in charge — well, you’re in the weeds. Maybe it’s time for you (yes, you reading this, or your team) to step up and do what nobody else is doing. Consider conducting an innovation cycle and pitching ideas to management on a regular basis, even if this is done ad hoc and not by a defined team.

  • Do you want to get anything done this year? 

It’s not too late to do a nice piece of work before the year ends — if you get after it Now. If you need help getting a jumpstart, please, get in touch. Gregg Fraley Innovation can help you quickly assess your innovation culture and get a team into action. An FEI cycle can be done in as short a time period as one month. The results could fuel your innovation efforts for the rest of the year. The KILN team is also ready with the trend-stimulus tools to help you accelerate your efforts.

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