Good managers can manage anything, right? Not so. Managing innovation is a world apart from the days of traditional top-down styled organizations.
Here’s why. Savvy stakeholders know that only a laser focus on happy customers translates into sustainable success and significant market share. And in our highly competitive, fast-paced global economy, only innovation as the norm attracts and retains happy customers.
Let’s take a look at innovation management’s five must-haves to create an enterprise in which innovation is the norm.
1. Project teams
Erase that old organization chart from your mind—and more important, from the minds of your employees.
The best and only chance to innovate—really to develop any new product or service virtually defect-free and at the lowest cost possible—results from creating project teams comprised of the professionals with the collective skills to design and produce what the customer needs.
If the designers are sitting in a room talking only to themselves, the engineers may develop a process that skews the desired outcome. The defective product then has to be retrofitted or redesigned. Ask Fiat-Chrysler how that’s working for them now that the National Highway Safety Administration has fined them $105 million.
Project teams ensure that the design and the process to develop the product will work hand-in-glove and produce a successful outcome the first time. Cross-collaboration and teamwork have built-in course corrections along the way.
2. Risk takers
There used to be a certain comfort level in narrowly defining your own role and the role of others. That old org chart was safe.
Innovation, on the other hand, is messy. It’s fluid. Embedded in an innovation culture is a collective willingness to turn away from the well-worn, safe path and embrace test after test—even persist—when an idea seems worthy of the effort.
Innovation management calls for deciding which ideas merit a serious collective investment, and then rewarding collective risk taking along the way.
3. Adequate resources
If you have watched TV’s “Shark Tank,” you know how often entrepreneurs have a recognizably novel idea but virtually no sales. Why? They don’t have the capital to push enough product to test the marketplace’s response. Do they get a deal in the Tank? Almost never.
Adequate resources is not the same as an unlimited supply of resources to ensure the product’s success. It requires instead that the C-suite and the Project Manager develop a realistic budget that reflects what the project team needs, in human and other resources, to design and develop a new product.
The good news? A project team with its built-in creativity and flexibility, may be able to identify a new process, a new supplier, or a new design that saves resources in the end.
4. Crowdsourcing, outsourcing, and partnerships
Old-style corporations attempted to contain all the skill sets, resources, and processes for their products in house, which created lumbering, unwieldy organizations with too many layers and high overhead costs.
Newer enterprises have learned from that lesson, and the best of the older ones—like Nike, IBM, and even NASA—have, too.
Innovation management comfortably pivots outside the enterprise to attract skills and other resources as needed to design and develop new products with lower costs. These days a manager and project team turn to crowdsourcing, outsourcing, or other types of partnerships (public-private, for instance) to devise the best solutions for customers.
5. Customer feedback
Finally, innovation management requires building relationships with customers to ensure that product ideas will have traction with consumers, and that product designs are user friendly. Seeking customer feedback at key junctions during the design and development process is the only way to avoid the need to retrofit or redesign later.
Innovation management means building a culture that is flexible, focused on customers, and comfortable with risk and change. The reward is a brand that becomes known over time for offering new and exciting products and services.