Innovation Management's Dirty Little Secret
I recently met a sales executive that has been in the innovation management industry for some time – in fact, for over nine years.
During that time, he has worked for six different vendors who have implemented their solutions at a variety of organizations. He told me that “the industry has a dirty little secret – not one of the solutions implemented by the various vendors (including the more recent vendors to the scene) he had worked with had activity beyond a two-year time horizon”; and more than half were moribund within a year from launch.
This kind of revelation would shock most people, but knowing what I know, it wasn’t really a surprise.
It is easy for any management team inexperienced in the process of Idea & Innovation Management to be seduced by the excitement of capturing ideas and voting them up – some mechanisms appear sexier than others, but in the end, they amount to elaborate popularity contests for ideas. They also tend to create a lot of activity, but little in the way of value, as they clutter traditional channels with under-developed ideas all needing attention at the same time; usually from sparse and rapidly overwhelmed resources.
The noise winds-up drowning-out the signal.
However, for those who take the trouble to peel away the second layer of process and beyond, begin to understand the down-line activities, actions and tasks essential for robust idea development in their organization; as well as the necessity for purposeful workflows (intended to be plural) that enable meaningful collaboration to engage the right resources (facilitators, experts, knowledge, date and capital to name a few), in the right measure and at the right time.
In the absence of process rigor and the proper supporting technology, the buzz doesn’t last and the engagement wanes. The organizational loses in more ways than just the costs associated with launching the ill-fated program; it also suffers opportunity costs for those ideas that never actualize/monetize, and it also loses the credibility of the communities it wanted to engage – make the next attempt at getting an innovation process right that much harder; people have memories – especially when things go sour.
Some companies never learn from this mistake and will go on to repeat the pain of an incomplete exercise by implementing a cookie-cutter solution developed for someone else’s need-set; those losses compound, making for outcomes that are incongruous with innovation goals.
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