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Pitfalls to Avoid When Scaling Innovation Programs

 
June 6, 2017

In my previous blog post, I discussed just part of the story of building and scaling a high-performing innovation engine. Culture persists as the number one driver of success and its starts with aligned and integrated leadership support. As illustration, innovation programs at two different organizations got many of the elements right but failed to make a meaningful impact because neither had the backing of senior executives. The programs are struggling to monetize the novel ideas theyve created because they have yet to shift the all units behavior to challenge the status quo and embrace the uncertainty of this DigitalAge of exponential change.

An environment for scaling innovations

To create an environment in which your innovation program can deliver the advantages needed to ensure market relevancy and fiscal viability continuously, I recommend following the design thinking dictum, stay close to your customers. Ensure you invest time in defining and communicating your organizations innovation strategy. Highlight areas it should be exploring, ideating, and experimenting to evolve and transform. Establish a cross-enterprise Innovation Council that implements a governance and funding model to deliver the needed innovation-driven business outcomes.

Seek to answer such questions as: What jobs need to be done for customers not just today but tomorrow? What capabilities will be needed to do the jobs that delight customers? Take into account such factors as emerging technologies, socio-economic trends, and environmental constraints to determine what you take to market and how to operate efficiently and effectively.

Consider a mutualistic approach to govern the enterprise. For example, consider Geoffrey Moores Four Zones Framework, from his book, Zone to Win. The Performance and Productivity Zones focus on optimizing the current revenue and profitability engine of the organization, while the Incubation and Transformation Zones speak to sustaining the business through transformative and disruptive adaptation. Unless the running the business and changing the business zones support one another, optimally producing a continuous pipeline of advantages required to thrive in the Digital Age will be elusive.

Avoiding premature scaling

To avoid scaling too quickly, think of your innovation program as a startup. The purpose of a startup is to create a viable business. The business of an innovation program is delivering a pipeline of advantages, such as an innovative product, business model, or business capability. Your ultimate objective is to sustain competitiveness.

Innovation is a team sport that requires integrated collaboration of all units of the enterprise at different times in different ways across the lifecycles of the various innovations that make up a risk-balanced portfolio. Your innovation program manager needs to build, test, and learn the right people, processes, and technology to deliver the results needed. As such, pivots are likely.

The Startup Genome project report tells us that prematurely scaling is one of the main reasons why startups fail. It is a result of entrepreneurs focusing on one dimension of the business and advancing it out of sync with the rest of the operation. And the best way to avoid premature scaling is to focus on customers instead of on scaling. Therefore, pivot as often as needed to optimize your innovation programs operating model by tuning it to the demands of its market that is, internal and external stakeholders requiring innovative solutions to problems and opportunities.

From our experience, one sign that youve scaled to quickly is that you have more ideation than conversion. This is not only a waste of time but can quickly kill any excitement and momentum to challenge the status quo and take a risk.

The process of creating something that affects the entire organization shouldnt be rushed. The enthusiasm for new projects must be balanced by acknowledgement of the fact that not all ideas will fit your strategic objectives or make the grade when tested. While revolutionary innovations are rare, meaningful innovations that deliver incremental improvements and adjacent impacts can significantly transform your organization. There is no shortcut you need your innovation engine to fire on all cylinders.

Related Links:

Digital Age Transformation: Building a High-Performing Innovation Engine.

Other blog posts by Courtney Wood

Courtney Wood, Director, Innovation Management Services. Courtney leads the Innovation Management Services capability at TCS. She has spent over 25 years in management consulting and banking, supporting both large and early stage enterprises in establishing high-performing growth and profitability engines.