Organizations are proud of their accomplishments. However, even the Apples and Coca-Colas of the world fail (think Newton and New Coke). According to The Product Development Institute, out of one hundred ideas there are about seven concepts generated. Those seven concepts, in turn, become perhaps two projects that are launched and only one of which succeeds. That's a ratio of 100 ideas to one successful launch. That means 50% of projects launched ultimately fail. Research indicates that for the billions spent in R&D investments across all industries, 50% of those billions invested will result in failed launches. This is a staggering percentage of waste.
What are some of the challenges to innovation?
- Racing to market resulting in poorer quality of product portfolio (quick and easy)
- Urgent customer and salespeople's' requests are usurping genuine product innovation
- Forcing overly frugal innovation and restricting resources to the point of undermining R&D
- Too fuzzy of a front end producing only incremental innovations
- Choosing the wrong projects or, worse yet, allowing projects to self-select
Overcome these challenges and achieve innovation by:
- Letting go of the need for speed and low-value innovations
- Avoiding innovating in a reactive mode
- Protecting your innovators and giving them the appropriate resources to innovate
- Assuring that high-value and robust innovations dominate
So, what to do with those successful innovators? Reward them, acknowledge them, thank them, and congratulate them (or in other words, parade the innovators). They managed to accomplish this feat against adversity, competition, limited resources and budget and time. Here are a few examples for you to consider.
- A large consumer good company has put in place a rewards programs that grant give-aways. I was recently visiting with their program manager who told me that his idea, which he deemed to be fantastic, while it advanced through the idea business review workflow, had already earned him a coffee mug, a business book and a tee-shirt. He was going for the $500 reward in cash should his idea be turned into a real project. One more gate review was needed but he was very confident. This innovator was paraded on the portal so all associated could see the progress of the idea and the rewards received.
- A large multi-billion dollar chemical company has implemented an innovation program that has been sponsored jointly by head of R&D and head of Marketing. As a visible show of support, the company has placed a dynamic dashboard in the corporate cafeteria showing in real time the top innovators, top challenges (campaigns) and top problem statements. The innovators are paraded on the screen, throughout the day, but most visibly around lunch time when all gather in the cafeteria. The overall immediate effect is that of a morale booster.
- A large chemical company has placed pictures of their innovators (based on number of patents earned) in the lobby of their R&D Center. The tangible reward was a sustainable “rock star parking spot” for their picture and brief biography and presence as part of the company history in the lobby of the facility. Other companies have gamified the experience by using a points-based system. When John Doe submits an idea he earns a point then every view from another associate earns John another point. Further, every comment or contribution earns John additional points. If John views or contributes to others' ideas he will also earn points and John accumulates points based on his overall involvement in innovation. Whether submitting, viewing, ranking someone else's idea, the entire culture of the company is changed via every action focused on innovation. This approach gives credence to the paradigm that “innovation is a process and not a onetime event”.
- A large financial institution rewards their innovators by having the head of business come to the winning innovator's desk with balloons and gathers the team for a short public celebration and acknowledgment. A handshake and a coupon for dinner at a fancy restaurant usually accompany the celebration.
Parade the InnovatorsParade the innovators by displaying their names on plaques in your lobby, on the company internal portal, within their departments, in the elevators, even in the cafeteria. They are helping ensure your company will be here tomorrow.
Cooper, R. D. and Edgett, S. J. (2007) Generating Breakthrough New Product Ideas. Leavitt, Paige. Rewarding Innovation. American Productivity & Quality Center.