In studies by the Product Development Management Association (PDMA), only one of every nine new product concepts becomes a commercial success. How do you increase the odds in your favor? Take a cue from Pete Valenti, who has more than 20 years experience as a large-enterprise innovator. The former global president of vision care for Bausch + Lomb and former sales and marketing executive with Covidien and Johnson & Johnson is known internationally for his innovation breakthroughs. From innovating outside corporate walls to setting a bold decree, Valenti shares his arsenal of ideas to improve your innovation success rate.

Two $100 million breakthroughs that almost didn’t happen

K-Y grew into a $100 million + brand for Johnson & Johnson after we launched a product formerly killed during the innovation process. Bio-inspired housecleaning products inspired the Bausch + Lomb’s BioTrue line, one of the brand’s successful launches.

A bold decree and internal enrollment

When Bausch + Lomb was becoming too internally focused with product development, we decreed that 40% of innovation would come from outside our company; we forced the organization to use outside experts and researchers who didn’t work for the company. Employees were leery of our mandate.“They first thought we did not believe in them or thought they couldn’t pull it off. We told them, ‘Think about how much more we could pull off with the support of other organizations.’ ” Ultimately, they embraced it.

Project strategy innovation

K-Y was a big transformation. It started with a product “in the closet” and connecting it to a new position for the brand. Placing K-Y in a new space, “intimate health,” and launching products into mainstream mass channels, K-Y is now a $100 million + brand and growing.

A balanced innovation portfolio

There are incremental innovations, which keep the lights on and drive revenue; substantial innovations—bigger plays in a known universe—then transformational innovation, when you’re dealing with total unknowns. Companies often get caught up in choosing between incremental and transformational change. With incremental innovation, you get the short-term revenue you need to grow and sustain growth. But if you’re only focused on that, over time, you become a laggard in the industry.

Market readiness

Re-evaluate products in the innovation cabinet that were killed in the pipeline or are still lingering. I’ve done this at a number of companies; you may find something that was passed over when the company had been taking a short-term view or was more focused on instant wins. Maybe the product could deliver but the market wasn’t ready at the time.

Risk mitigation

If it’s a business concept, speed it to market by doing test-and-learns to mitigate risk. There needs to be a commitment to consistently invest in and push for breakthroughs. Without that, you become a follower.

Fail and learn with velocity

At Bausch + Lomb, we worked on a joint development with a company in a different country. We were developing 24/7, back and forth, together. Even though the product itself was not a success, it taught us how to accelerate from design to implementation at a transformational rate.

Cross-functional teams

We created a process and forums where all the functions could see, hear and contribute to the process. By inclusion, we were able to more rapidly build and optimize. People at all levels need to be engaged to create an innovative culture.

A value proposition

If you can move the needle even a little toward the big idea, it is worth it. It is amazing how many times when we swung for something transformational that we learned something or gained immeasurable value in ways beyond what we even considered, many times without the transformation itself necessarily coming to fruition.

Culture is decisive

You can’t control innovation. Allow risk and creativity back into the culture with tools and processes to support and accelerate innovation.

Two questions that pay off

Why did it fail? Even after a product is killed from the pipeline, put a small group to discover why; there’s a lot you can learn from that. Some of the most successful product launches I’ve been a part of were at one time considered “failed,” including Acuvue Advance, one of the best launches in contact lens history.

What best serves the customer? Vistakon, a division of Johnson & Johnson, started as a test-and- learn to help customers more successfully purchase contact lenses. The result was a world-class customer relationship management system that elevated the brand to a recognized digital leader.

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