Overcoming Hurdles to Scaling Innovation
Crossing the Chasm
To put it simply, everyone has good ideas — and some have great ideas. But the imperative of any innovation program is in its ability to scale and realize its financial promise. We call this “crossing the chasm.”
It is critical in any development process that innovation ‘show stoppers’ are recognized and nurtured quickly. For some innovations, factors such as feasibility vs. infeasibility are very straightforward, almost intuitive, for a subject matter expert. However, in complex innovation efforts, large operational problems may surface only after a certain scale is reached.
This is especially true in highly regulated industries. Let’s take the present day drone as an example. The scope of the utility infrastructure of a flying drone is commonly overseen by multiple regulatory bodies, and thus carries multiple tax obligations. Therefore, scaling the original idea to add a single new area of the drone’s utility will multiply the complexity of the operation across multiple dimensions.
Drones require a large investment in prototyping hardware and software (eg: in navigation, image recognition, etc) to demonstrate a viable operation. The decision to further invest must be informed not only by the immediate costs of concept development but also by a keen understanding of the implementation impediments as the idea goes from Start to Scale.
In other words, assessing real-world implementation problems of an idea early on may make all the difference. In many cases, it’s the only way to achieve a scale that justifies the often-substantial investments in the development of technical prototypes and operations.
In many product development processes, companies tend to create incremental improvements within the fairly well-known scope of their current production and distribution scale. In contrast, companies are also investing in an innovation process, which often considers ideas that may extend far outside of their current internal product/service understanding and requires a distributed ecosystem of partners or potential partners to fully realize.
In the former process, scaling is fairly well understood from previous practice and can be adequately assessed within the cost assumptions of a typical business case. In the latter process, however, scaling issues may need to be discovered, as illustrated by the above example, where a utility company may in fact know little about the required flight operations. More importantly, they may not know what questions to ask and to whom.
The fact is that innovation practitioners need a framework of thinking about innovation scale as well as the ability to document key scaling issues across essential topics such as regulation, operations, technology, people, and culture. Asking the right questions under these categories will challenge the practitioner to identify, investigate and reconcile scaling issues before significant investment is risked.
Despite the enthusiasm, many practitioners have been struggling to translate initial efforts into material success. As a response, Imaginatik recently published a webinar recording that explores key ‘scale-up’ issues inside the corporation, including:
- Why the mere adoption of Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas is not sufficient
- Why the ability to “scale up” promising bets is critical to transformative innovation
- The 3 (predictable) forms of internal resistance – and how to neutralize them
- The best way to address climate and culture change over the long term
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Jeffrey Pappin is the Vice President of Europe for Imaginatik, a leading innovation software and consulting company. He has developed innovation and transformation programs at some of the world’s leading companies as an alumni Partner in firms such as KPMG Consulting, IBM and Unisys. Follow @imaginatik
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