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November 16, 2009

Innovation Process: Are You Working Backwards?

inno-emphasis-chart2I’m not big on coining phrases to label the steps of an innovation process.  That’s because there’s no one best approach for all innovation challenges.  And, I might even argue that the very notion of implementing a standardized innovation process and expecting a higher new product success rate is like putting a strategic planning function in place and expecting a ground-breaking strategy.

It doesn’t work that way.  Quite often, the goal becomes one of navigating the process itself at the expense of carefully vetting tools, participants and creative input.  Often, success is measured in phases completed rather than unrecognized needs exposed or compelling solutions devised.

But, I rant.  So, back to the title of this post.  I’m using catchy descriptors here to make a point.  I believe the following about the drivers of successful innovation:

  • There is infinitely more success leverage in “Defining” than in “Delivering”.  Sure, execution is critical and projects fail because of it.  But, they never succeed because of it.  If you haven’t defined what you’re solving for in a way that can focus,  inspire and guide concept development, you have no chance.
  • Design firms tend to be technically competent, but lacking in “front-end” strategy and direction-setting activities.  So, ideation can be unfocused and proposed solutions may be less than right for the brand, the marketplace and the organization.
  • Research firms are great at executing research, but lack the strategic underpinnings to identify objectives, select proper research tools and analyze results from a brand perspective.

Now that I’ve trashed the most common “substitutes” for the work I do, it’s time to admit that this chart is self-serving.  Yep.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not true…

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