During the last quarter of 2015, the Innovation Engineering team did an analysis of InnovationEngineeringLabs.com, a web-based portal through which thousands of organizations run their innovation system. The purpose of the analysis was to zero in on the actions that caused growth to the Innovation Pipeline's value (which is most often reported in dollars). Because the value of your Innovation Pipeline is how we measure the health of your innovation system.
The good news is, there is no mystical recipe for success. The types of things that influence pipeline value are very intuitive. In fact, you can set yourself up for a better year by simply taking a look at the calendar for 2016 and blocking off some key activities NOW!
The top 3 activities that trigger growth to an innovation pipeline are 1) Sessions, 2) Learning Cycles, and 3) Collaborations.
Let me define each, and suggest something you can do now in order to grow the value of your innovation pipeline in 2016.
What is it? A Session is when a group of people physically get together to generate ideas or solutions against a specific objective. Sessions are typically planned events, and no one comes in without mining for relevant data and insights to contribute. Sessions are NOT brainstorming, blank piece of paper type of events. They are well thought out, orchestrated meetings where purposeful stimulus is presented to the team in order to spark ideas or generate non-obvious solutions.
What can you do NOW? Schedule four sessions right now, one per quarter. Be proactive and block off at least one full day each quarter to invent or problem solve. You do not need to know the specific objective of each session right now. But having the time blocked on the calendar is sometimes the hardest part of orchestrating a session. Once scheduled, the expectation is set and you’ve demonstrated that innovation is going to be a priority this year. You can get specific on the objective and the pre-work as you get closer to each session.
2. Learning Cycles
What is it? A Learning Cycle is when a project team documents the following steps related to their work on the project; Plan, Do, Study, Act. Each time you circle through those steps, you can consider it a cycle. The faster your cycles, the more you will have in a year. Learning Cycles drive growth in your Innovation Pipeline because they accelerate the progress or the death of the projects within it. In addition, they provide a framework that welcomes teams to reinvent their project. For example, during the Act step teams often change the idea to make it better, more meaningful to the customer, and thus more valuable to the organization. So each project’s value tends to increase over time. And if the team learns the idea is not meaningful, feasible or profitable… they have the choice to archive it and start working on a fresh idea.
What can you do NOW? Operationalize this concept through weekly or bi-weekly update meetings. Again, it comes back to scheduling. Find the day and time that works best for your staff and schedule regular project update meetings where you can document learnings through Plan, Do, Study, Act cycles.
What is it? A Collaboration is when someone reaches out to people with whom they do not typically work seeking ideas, advice or feedback. This enables people to find solutions from a diverse pool of individuals who have different expertise and experience.
What can you do NOW? Put in the leg work early, to create easy ways to collaborate. If it is not easy to reach across departments, people won’t do it. If there is a cultural stigma to seeking help at your organization, people won’t do it. How can you make it simple and acceptable to reach out for help? Can you create a volunteer group of experts across the organization who really like to provide technical or financial perspective to innovation teams? Could there be a lunch table in the cafeteria where the only topic of conversation is innovation, related specifically to hurdles faced by your teams? You will be amazed at what a little collaboration can do for the morale of your team.
You have probably caught on to the theme. All three of these actions are demonstrating time on task. If you want your Innovation Pipeline to grow, the investment of time and energy is a must. The other factors that I did not report on for this post are Education and Patents. I will dive into these a bit later.
I wish you all a happy holiday season, and a vibrant year ahead!
If you happen to be at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES2016) in Vegas stop by our booth 80661 Sands and say, "Hi," or set up a time to chat.