Have we become addicted to innovation? I love the next new thing as much as anyone as evidenced by all of the stuff I've accumulated. As an innovators, the challenge is how to get the innovation timing right to satisfy the market and stay ahead of the competition.
The pull on companies to create the next great product or service is hard to avoid. Consumers are asking and your competition is on your heals. Its the innovation version of “keeping up with the Jones”.
But innovation is not a one and done type activity. Once you start, the customer is always looking for what's next. The pace of innovation drives your activity and its not slowing down. In fact, its accelerating.
The Goldilocks Problem
As an innovators, can you or should you speed up your innovation refresh rate? This is a Goldilocks problem. You go too slow and your competitions will blow right past you. Go too fast and your customers cannot absorb what you are creating. You risk creating innovation exhaustion.
You need to get the innovation timing “just right”.
Behind The Scenes Look At How I Do It
You are probably asking yourself, if this is so hard, what hope do you have in getting it right? Don't expect perfection. There is NO magic formula that when performed generates innovation planning success.
Innovation is messy and unpredictable. So how do you set the right flow?
Four Step Process To Set Your Innovation Timing
- Set your funnel “output” rate. For example, At HP, the rate of innovation from the Innovation Program Offices was 2 per year for HP. In my current role as a CEO with ~200 people, we have an innovation rate slightly higher than what we had at HP.
- Define your stages in the funnel. I use a four stage funnel/gates to ensure oversight of ideas in different stages of development.
- Calculate out how many total ideas to achieve your “output” rate. For example, at HP we set our metrics as:
- Market Validation = 20 ideas
- Customer/Product Validation = 10 ideas
- Limited Launch/Trial = 5 ideas
- Global Launch = 2 ideas
- Pace yourself. Its easy to get enthusiastic on the ideas you have in the funnel. To achieve long term, sustainable innovation, you need to prioritize your funnel and be discipline on 2 per year.
The above may sound simple but trust me, its a lot harder than it looks. Leaders within your organization will derail the funnel at ever turn. Be prepared to defend and protect the funnel.
Hard Learned Lessons
Some lessons I've learned when leading and managing innovation organizations:
- Do not over extend your rate by pushing more innovations than the rate you've set. For 2 ideas per year, we required 35 ideas in the funnel (see metrics below). If you were to go to 3 ideas per year, you would need roughly 52 ideas in the funnel. Think about that carefully.
- Be aware of what your customers (or internal catching organization) can absorb. If you exceed their innovation adoption rate, you will burn them out with innovation exhaustion.
Listener Question: Starting A New Business
This week, we took time answer a listener question:
Answer: Yes. Listen to this weeks show to hear my advice to Roberta on starting a new business.