How to keep your head above water when tackling innovation.

Here we are in Innovation Summit week! Innovation can be a daunting task and although failure is part and parcel of innovation, one does need to keep it in control. Here are ten tips from Gijs van Wulfen, author of the Innovation Expedition to help keep your head above water.

1. Create momentum for your innovation project at the start. There must be urgency otherwise innovation is considered as playtime and nobody will be prepared to go outside the box.

2. Start your innovation project with a clear and concrete innovation assignment. This forces the top management, from the start, to be concrete about the market/target group for which the innovations must be developed and which criteria these new concepts must meet.

3. You can invent alone, but you can’t innovate alone. Use a team approach to get both better innovation results and internal supporters for the innovative outcomes. Invite people for whom the assignment is personally relevant. Invite both people for content as for decision-making reasons. Invite also a couple of outsiders as outside-the-box thinkers.

4. A lot of managers love to be in steering groups. Don’t let them! Innovation is a difficult and dirty job. It requires not only ‘young wild dogs’ but also ‘some grey hairs’. Let the internal top problem-owner and important influencers participate in the innovation team.

5. Use a structured approach. To think outside the box is a good start. But you have to come back with innovative concepts, which fit the ‘in the box’ reality of your organization, otherwise nothing will happen. A structured approach helps you to connect the dots.

6. When you ideate unprepared with the usual colleagues hardly anything new appears. That’s why it is essential to get fresh insights before you start creating ideas. Let all team members visit customers and others that serve as a source of inspiration for innovation opportunities.

7. Winning new concepts give potential customers a concrete reason to change. It will solve relevant problems of customers. If you want to create innovative products or services start with discovering relevant customer frictions to solve. There are several ways to discover them, like personal visits, focus groups, web searching and crowd sourcing,

8. The world is changing at a faster pace. Keep a high pace in your innovation project, otherwise it becomes long-winded and boring. It gets killed when it takes too long without any progress.

9. Use the voice of the customer. How attractive are the new product or service concepts really? That’s a legitimate question. Therefore you should check the strength of the new concepts and prototypes among potential customers at the front end of innovation. Use the voice of the customer internally to convince your peers that you’re on the right track.

10. Bring back business. So, draft mini new business cases instead of coming up with post-its or mood boards. And substantiate, in a business-like and convincing manner, to what degree and for what reason the new concept can meet all essential financial criteria of your organization.


Condensed and edited for the DI, originally posted here