Friday, August 2, 2013

Innovation Is A Game Of Attrition

From LinkedIn, "Why the Most Innovative Companies Aren't" by Jeff DeGraff, Professor at University of Michigan:
Consider the 2010 BusinessWeek innovation survey of thousands of senior leaders in dozens of countries. It identified the following as the greatest challenges to making innovation happen in their companies:
  1. Lengthy development times
  2. Lack of coordination
  3. Risk adverse culture
  4. Limited customer insight
Ironically, during the worst recession in nearly a century, money wasn’t among the top barriers. Similarly, strategy, technology and competencies, the usual excuses for why innovation isn’t happening, were not among the main concerns of these executives. Instead, the primary challenges are essentially leadership issues of coordinating and integrating innovation throughout the enterprise and beyond.
Remember innovation is a game of attrition. Every venture capitalist knows that you take multiple shots on goal because you never know what project is going to score and what isn’t until you take the shot. So hedge first and optimize later. Forget the 80/20 rule. That’s for efficiency wonks. It has nothing to do with making things amazingly new. Use the 20/80 rule instead. That is, it’s easier to change 20% of your company 80% than it is to change 80% of your company 20%. View your company’s performance on a bell curve and start at the tails where crisis or outstanding performance prevails. These are the places outside the norm where the risk of innovating and the reward of keeping things the same are reversed.

Momentum is the key when connecting the dots of innovation. Find existing projects with lawyers, guns and money and hide your revolutionaries inside these Trojan Horses. They already have political capital and the means for propulsion. Use them to keep moving forward. Work out of sight and prototype your project until it starts to look like something that might actually succeed. Show, don’t tell.

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