The Innovation Process – The Key to Success

Successful new product development is not easy – you must blend creativity, research, ideas, problem solving – with realistic project management and business planning. So how do you make all this happen?

Innovation is a complex process. It requires a good idea,
that gains traction, support and business investment. That must then be
followed by a hard slog of development work, more creativity, more investment –
time, money, skills, equipment, collaboration – and good judgement. If all that
goes well, you might just have a product/service/app that has the potential to
be commercialised. And that means marketing, a launch plan, some more
creativity (commercial), segmentation, targeting, delivery, messaging, legal
approvals, health and safety and a plethora of other commercial realities. And
then, there are the financials, achieving the right level of return – pricing,
channels, volume, planning, executing – in order to repay all the work that has
been invested, and more. More, not just by a little bit, but by an amount
exceeding the cost of capital of doing all the work to get the idea to launch.

So, the message is clear – it’s a tough job. Successful new
product development is not easy. If that’s your job, you have both the
excitement and the difficulty of the challenge. The challenge you have, is to
blend creativity – research, ideas, problem solving – with realistic project management
and business planning.

In a large company, it’s hard for you to muster all of the
resources – skills, investment and commitment – to bring an idea to market. And
more importantly in a form that will be profitable, sustainable, and in line
with the corporate goals. Cross functional working is essential, a blend of
skills, and capabilities, to cover all the bases.

If you are the originator of a great idea – a potential blockbuster – how do you make all of this happen? If you are a project manager, how do you deliver?

The Methodology of Innovation

Some of you will say – innovation is creative, it’s not a
place for methodology. Others will say, it’s an essential business lever to
create competitive advantage in a structured and highly disciplined way that
generates a good financial return. Both perspectives are absolutely correct.
And many others – sustainability, customer focus, legal, risk management. Yes,
that’s the need for cross functional management.

To manage innovation successfully on a single project/idea is a tough job. To manage it repeatedly, on an industrial scale is mind-blowing. Doing one project “right” is massively complex. Doing 5,000 every year is a whole new world. This is what Enterprise Innovation Management is all about.

Idea to Launch – The central theme

Getting the best ideas to market, quickly and profitably.
Repeatedly. Successfully. And having the means to do it over and over again.

This means process, and it requires a balanced approach of
creative drive and commercial wisdom and control.

Classic stage and gate type methodologies are often perceived
as trying to “control” execution and delivery. The creative types among you
will be uncomfortable with that perspective. The reality is that the process
requires a careful balance – the right level of touch – managing creative new
development to be financially viable. A more constructive view of Stage Gate
methodologies is to see then as a means of giving the best ideas the resources
they need and deserve.

As a project manager, it is an absolute godsend if the corporate environment has a culture and a process to progress good ideas. The flipside is that the same corporate environment must also be saying no to the bad ideas, and also to those where it’s just not quite the right timing or approach.

Governance – Control or Enablement?

The usual view of governance is that of control. Checking, validating, sticking to the rules. A complimentary view – is that it is also about the corporation having the means to put weight behind something that is really good. When a great idea comes along, a strong governance process can ensure it gets progressed and supported. And therein lies the art and the science of crafting the right form of process methodology to bring new ideas to market.

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