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I speak with Gijs Van Wulfen, Linkedin innovation Influencer, on what it takes to execute innovation, and how to get your managers to listen to your ideas.
There is a sad fact in the innovation community, which is that a lot of advice which companies get from many experts about innovation is nothing more than inspiration. By this I mean that it consists of either a speech or afternoon workshop in which a team is told how Apple has been successful, or how 3M manages their list of ideas, or how JFK challenged a nation to aim for the moon.
This may be great for staff morale for a few hours, but it usually doesn’t help teams understand how they can actually help implement that in their company.
The same can be true of a lot of books on innovation. Full of case studies and examples from famous companies, but falling short in helping companies actually implement it themselves.
Fortunately, one of the better and more practical books out there is the Innovation Expedition, outlining the FORTH Innovation methodology. It has already been translated into 6 languages, and I spoke with the author Gijs Van Wulfen to learn some of its secrets.
In this video interview above, we cover a wide array of issues which most companies will face when starting an innovation programme and what it takes to address them.
- The FORTH Innovation Methology is an acronym of the 5 Stages related to the front end of innovation, which are:
- Full Steam Ahead: Figure out what the challenge is, and take the managers and stakeholders on the journey
- Observe & Learn: Getting off your blinders and getting a detailed understanding of the challenge from all perspectives
- Raise Ideas: Generate the ideas related to the challenge, and refine them into a more actionable list
- Test Ideas: Begin finding out what customers (internal and external) think of your potential solutions
- Homecoming: Get internal support and resources to execute and implement the innovation
- It is a structured programme (usually completing in 15 weeks) to not only generate ideas, but generate the right kind of ideas which get the right internal stakeholders involved
- The biggest frustration which most companies find around innovation is that someone will be asked to innovate by the board, but when they come back to the board to present their ideas they will be shot down as being far too revolutionary or risky, or the board members start saying it doesn’t meet lots of constraints which weren’t clear at the start.
- Companies will only take risks when they have to. And there are only two sweet spots when most of them will get the support of management to innovate:
- When things are going well, sales are good but growth may be slowing. While there might be money available to innovate now, often this isn’t matched with an urgency to innovate.
- When things aren’t going as well any more, and the company is on a downward curve. Now there is an urgency to innovate, but there is not only less money available but also often fewer people under more pressure, so these times need to be managed carefully.
- While it may be frustrating, you are much more likely to get support for your innovation programme once your management is in one of the sweet spots, especially when they also have the same urgency.
- Six out of Seven innovations fail before they even get to the market
A company is only likely to innovate when doing nothing is a greater risk
- If a company is spending all of its time generating ideas, then it won’t spend enough time to actually develop and execute their ideas.
- If you have an idea and you want to convince your management about it, then there is one important way to improve your odds: Wait until the right moment
- If you have the seed of an idea, you need to figure out the right moment to plant it in the mind of your manager. Like a hunter, if you pick the wrong moment, you might not get another chance.
- You also need to present your ideas in a way which reduces the uncertainties for management decision makers. An effective way of accomplishing this is that instead of presenting an idea, present it as a mini-business case. Just a few pages and covering the most pertinent points.
Think innovative, present conservative.
- In order to get support for an idea, it is much more likely to succeed if all of the stakeholders who will be involved in the future (R&D, Production, Sales etc) are involved in the ideation stages.
Do you think it’s right to wait for the right moment to innovate and share ideas? Let us know in the comments below (we read all comments)