Many companies have decent product development processes and yet fall short of generating breakthrough product innovation that is meaningful to the consumer and differentiating enough in the market place. As a matter of fact, our experience as Product Innovation Consultants, working with both large size and midsize companies suggest that the issue, most of the time, is not about generating more ideas but rather identifying the really good ones which are capable to make a difference and generate the desired ROI.
We observed, among many others, three key reasons which lead to this phenomenon:
- Too much focus on the innovation process without taking into consideration two other critical factors, the right mix of people and the right environment. The former is intended to leverage diverse people and opinions to foster breakthrough thinking. The latter promotes trust and risk taking to encourage openness and reduce complacency within organizations.
- Falling in love with ideas that are either not good enough or not feasible. This is not uncommon at all with product development people who tend to fall in love with their ideas, sometimes determined to prove the viability of what they are pursuing even in the absence of a clear end in sight. Ironically this can be confused with “determination,” “persistence,” and “making things happen” rendering the decision to kill ideas somewhat difficult.
- Rehashing old ideas most of which became obsolete. This is common in big companies where cross-pollination of ideas across product categories is highly encouraged. On a good day this drives innovation by analogy, application of ideas and technologies in seemingly unrelated businesses and product categories. On a bad day, it is the resurfacing of old ideas that will not likely deliver the desired impact.
As Product Innovation Consultants with an established broad and global experience in innovation we address these issues in an objective unbiased approach which involve:
- An assessment of the organization and the innovation environment in addition to the innovation process. This identifies potential gaps in project teams’ structure and increase awareness about individual skills, strengths, and vulnerabilities in addition to the environmental factors that are key to healthy team dynamics.
- Driving discipline in decision making and project choices based on a fundamental understanding of what is imperative to drive success. We do that in the context of the agreed business strategy, how it is translated into an innovation strategy and innovation roadmap, and the clearly identified and agreed success criteria.
The leadership of companies should empower their organizations to experiment and learn to make them comfortable dealing with the ambiguity of innovation. This, however, should not be at the expense of productivity at a time when the return on R&D investments are in question. Driving out inefficiencies is an important strategy for value creation. Hiring outsiders or leveraging the services of Product Innovation Consultants would help provide an external perspective to challenge, when it is appropriate, the existing assumptions and decision biases.