How to Accelerate Innovation

 

The challenge of effective innovation

Everybody wants innovation, as innovation is a strong driver of value. The only caveat is you can’t just buy and install innovation or declare it in a memo. Certain enablers must be put in place for the organization to be able to innovate. 

We’re going to go over some important enablers. So, here’s what the organization needs. 

Enablers of innovation

First. Focus on intent. When knowledge workers are spoon-fed very narrow requirements, don’t see the bigger picture, and, most importantly, are disconnected from the intent behind those requirements, it’s hard to productively innovate. What’s needed, instead, is a statement of intent with minimum constraints attached to it; and then, of course, productive ideas will be emerging. Quite unfortunately, organizations tend to surround the knowledge worker by really tight boundaries, and yet at the same time they want innovation. These two things are incompatible. So, knowledge workers need some enablement from the leadership, some flexibility, some autonomy, and they need to know the intent. 

Second. Build MVPs. An MVP, or a Minimum Viable Product, is a version of your solution that has just enough functionality to be usable by early customers and allow them to provide feedback. To innovate, the enterprise must embrace experimentation and MVP is the key tool in making it happen. Will this functionality work out for the customer? Is the usability good, or should we use this other UX paradigm instead? Are the users able to achieve their goals with these select features? MVPs are built to answer questions like these. The earlier you can produce an MVP, the better, because then you get important feedback early. But building an MVP, selecting only a subset of functionality and then delivering it to the customer is absolutely counter to what many enterprises used to do, which is: beefing up systems with lots of functionality and only then shipping. So, a transition is needed to a new way of working and that transition can be tough, so need to approach it effectively, by getting the leadership involved and making it urgent to everyone to change the way they think and operate. But this does not imply that the entire organization has to transition all at once. You can start with just one particular system and get the support of the stakeholders that are involved in that system development. That is a good start. And of course, while doing this, everyone needs to keep in mind the benefit of why this change is being implemented, and that is: productive innovation. 

Lastly, Measure and Learn. An MVP is delivered only for one purpose: to learn from it. So, proper measurement must be done and that involves both quantitative and qualitative metrics; actionable, contextual metrics which will answer the questions that are the reason why you built this MVP. That may include solution instrumentation with some analytic tools, customer interviews, measures like the Net Promoter Score, and so on. If you want your customer to achieve a certain goal with your solution, you have to measure it and make those measures a part of the MVP experience. 

Taking action

Time for action. So, we talked about three enablers of innovation: focusing on the intent, building an MVP, and measuring and learning. Plan a specific action item that will advance you with respect to these three enablers. 

 

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Learn more

Eric Ries, The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Sep, 2011)

Alex Yakyma

Alex Yakyma is the author of “Pursuing Enterprise Outcomes” and “The Rollout”. As a consultant, Alex is helping enterprises succeed with complex challenges. Throughout his career, he operated in multi-cultural, highly distributed environments. Alex has trained a large number of change agents and leaders whose key role is to help their organizations achieve higher effectiveness at pursuing business outcomes.

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