Innovation isn’t easy. Not in the least. But it’s not usually the innovative idea that companies have a problem with. It’s the execution.
There are plenty of ideas going around. New products. New procedures. New services. Good, innovative ideas for those things can come to executives even while they’re sleeping. But those executives, and lots of other people in the organization, have to be wide-awake to see those ideas through to fruition. So how do you properly execute an innovation project? Here are a few steps to keep in mind:
Begin with innovation value in mind
Let’s say that our dreaming executive just snoozed her way into an idea for a great new product. The first questions she’s likely to ask herself and be asked by others are, “What’s it going to cost?” and “What’s the return on investment for this product?”
Those are valid queries. But if questions of cost are the only questions being asked, you won’t be creating anything that’s transformational. A better approach is to ask, “What’s it going to cost, and what value is it going to bring to us and to our customers?”
Sure, you could have marketing come up with an idea, work through it for a while, and then hand it off to manufacturing. But what’s manufacturing likely to say in that case? Maybe something like, “We can’t make that product in the way you’ve designed it.”
Manufacturing may be right. But the time for saying that, and for working through constraints, is the beginning. That’s why innovation projects demand the creation of cross-functional teams, which we call I-Teams.
Those I-Teams, made up of people drawn from various departments in an organization, function like a lab to test the value of a new product or service. When manufacturing and marketing and everyone else is at the same table from the beginning, questions of organizational value and value to the customer can be addressed, constraints can be overcome, and the innovation project can be successfully executed.