I was pleased to get a chance to talk to an innovation project team recently who is progressing through development with a new product in a new market to find out what they have learned. Deana, Craig, and Marty with GrafTech International are working on the 2Degree Jacket project, and identified three things that have been keys to their success to date.
- Get focused on what we don’t know. From the start, focusing on THE killer issue that can prevent the project from moving successfully into development is critical. There can be lot’s of unknowns - especially when going into a new market - so there’s no time to waste on more minor tasks that aren’t as significant. We need to get smarter fast on the big threats to increase confidence.
- Have an engaged, innovation-educated executive providing frequent guidance. It’s always important to have the support of leadership, but when a team has a management coach who has in-depth knowledge of how to lead innovation as a system, he/she is more of a co-pilot for the project vs. a “sponsor.” By providing honest input and helpful advice to the project leader a couple of times a week, fear is reduced and progress is accelerated.
- Don’t hesitate to look outside for help. Engaging external experts to help address a killer unknown is often the right thing to do - and sooner rather than later. However, as the Graftech team pointed out, it’s important to do a bit of research to ensure the expert is the right fit. Just be sure to balance the time needed to vet against the risk involved, and set clear expectations for both sides.
Depending on your organization, some of these may be easier to do than others, but it’s worth it to keep them all in mind when getting started on a project.
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