While everyone agrees that companies need to innovate to succeed, actually doing it is often quite challenging. While most successful companies can lay credit to some innovations, most have occurred by chance and the companies actually lack an orderly, reliable way to innovate regularly. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days” by Scott Anthony and two of his colleagues, does a great job of laying out a tactical plan to help your company to innovate.
While some companies address this problem by building large—and expensive—innovation centers or R&D facilities, Anthony shows there is a middle way that almost any company can pursue regardless of resources. In many ways, what Anthony describes (and the term he uses) is the equivalent of the minimum viable product (MVP), from lean start-up fame. In this case, it is a minimum viable innovation system (MVIS). There are four phases to building such a system, and it takes about 90 days.
Phase 1: Define your innovation buckets
There are two types of innovation: improving existing products or operations, and generating growth by reaching new customer segments or markets. For an innovation program (including an MVIS) to be successful, everyone involved must understand the two types of innovation. If your team fails to make this distinction, you increase the likelihood that you either discount the importance of innovations that strengthen the ongoing business or demand too much revenue from the new-growth initiatives too early. Innovations meant to improve the core business (the former of the two innovation categories) should be tied to the current strategy and managed mostly with the primary organizational structure. The return on these projects will be relatively quick with high initial returns and thus should be funded at scale.
While all of your innovation projects may be focused on core activities, they you are probably missing preparing for the future and reaching your long-term goals. New growth initiatives, the latter category, should fill this gap. These new growth initiatives push the frontier of your strategy by offering new or complementary products to existing customers, moving into adjacent product or geographic markets, or developing something utterly original, perhaps delivered in a novel way. Continue reading “90-day plan to increase your company’s innovation”