Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Innovation

Wouldacouldashouldav1The Time is Now to Plan for 2016 Innovation

This time of year it’s natural to get an innovation plan in place — if you’re not there already — the time is now.

Talking to customers about their innovation efforts I’m hearing regrets in December. Wishes for having done more, and done more sooner.

Shel Silverstein wrote a poem that sums it up nicely:

Woulda-Coulda- Shoulda

All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ in the sun,
Talkin’ bout the things
They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little did.

by Shel Silverstein

A Simple Innovation Plan — in 7 Steps

I get it, innovation, if it’s not part of your culture, is hard to kick start and get going.

And yet, it can be as simple as a one page plan. How about four projects, one per quarter, next year? Here’s a model simple plan:

  1. Set up a team with an empowered leader. It can be an ad hoc team. What they mostly need is time. If this “stops you” — you’ve got bigger problems than innovation.
  2. Each project starts with a blank page and ends up with pitches to the top decision maker.
  3. Each project takes one quarter of the calendar. If you’re a very big organization, maybe do two or three instead of four. Consider alternating projects between incremental innovation and bigger risk innovation. Start with one that provides a low-risk win.
  4. Each cycle or project progresses from a blank page, to a platform question, to ideation, to convergence, to pitch presentations. For more on this basic Front End of Innovation structure see this article I wrote with my KILN partners Kate Hammer and Indy Neogy — which provides more detail.
  5. The top person chooses one or more of the pitched ideas to put into the product development pipeline for introduction. If you don’t have a pipeline, start one, and test the idea as cheaply as you can before you advance to the next stage of development (as in Lean Product Development). If the big cheese keeps saying no, you’ve got another problem that falls outside of innovation.
  6. Each quarterly project has a different project leader to spread the work around and get more people involved. Or, create an Innovation Director position and make sure you’ve got a real ramrod in that key post. A true collaborative leader!
  7. After each cycle/project, you measure how many ideas you generated, how many you pitch, how many are selected, and how many ideas get put into play. Over time you can measure revenue from in play innovations. Rinse and repeat.

If you’ve read one of the 10,086 innovation books you know innovation can be difficult and complex. Of course, those books are going to sort it all out for you! If you haven’t got time to read them all now here’s the simplest bit of advice I can give you:

Innovation is about the “one little did”.  Innovation = Projects. If you don’t have innovation projects going on, you aren’t doing innovation.

It’s just that simple.

So, sit down with the team and plot out your simple plan. And then you won’t be reciting “Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda” at the end of 2016.

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