Igniting Innovation: Tips, Sparks and Ideas for Acting on Innovation

Is It Time To Kill My Innovation Project?

Posted by Maggie Slovonic Pfeifer on Nov 24, 2015 10:00:00 AM

So, I’m coaching an innovation project team right now and I can’t decide if I should recommend that they kill it, or if I should suggest they try to reinvent it. The decision will ultimately be up to the team, specifically the leader ofinnovation check point the project, but I know I can help frame their options.

The team was really energized at the start. But over the last few weeks, they’ve discovered information that has proven their original hypothesis wrong. So, we are left with an idea that doesn’t look like it could be unique in the market or profitable for their company.We scheduled another week to work on the project’s business model to see if some different revenue scenarios might make a difference.

Next week, we will come to a decision, as we do each week on our update call (a best practice when working innovation – make a conscious decision about moving forward every single week).

If we can’t make the numbers work and kill the project, we will be doing the right thing by the organization. The organization will avoid losing money on a project with a small return on investment.

However, the second option is to give the team the opportunity to reinvent their idea. Not to tweak it, but to blow it up and start with a blank sheet of paper. This would give the team a chance to re-imagine the whole concept from scratch.

The pro to the second option is the fact that the team knows more now, having spent a few weeks learning and collecting data about the project. So they are much better prepared to innovate than they were during the original brainstorm.

The con is that it takes a lot of energy to do this, mental and physical. We’ll need to schedule another brainstorming session, positioned this time as a problem solving session. We will need to pull together fresh information to work with to help us reinvent the idea. And after all this, we still might end up killing the project.

However, if we do the problem solving session, and give the team another shot, we could end up with a breakthrough. We could end up with an unexpected idea that is better than the original. And we will certainly end up with a team who can confidently say they gave it everything they had, and wisely killed their innovation project.

So, It’s a culture and employee engagement win for the organization.

I think by now, I’ve decided what I’ll do. If the team has the energy to try to Innovation Braveryreinvent this project, I’m in. If they don’t, and they really don’t have any passion left, we fold on the project. And we celebrate the team for their bravery.

It might sound cheesy, or too touchy feely, but psychology plays a big role in innovation. Decisions are emotional, and we have to respect that doing innovation is hard, and its driven by those that are willing. So, we honor the innovator’s intrinsic motivation. And when its gone, it’s hard to get it back. But when its not gone, it’s the best asset we have behind the project. Intrinsically motivated teams can move mountains.

 Thanks for helping me sort this out. What would you do?

Topics: innovation, Leading Innovation, strategy

Maggie Slovonic Pfeifer

Written by Maggie Slovonic Pfeifer

Maggie P. is the Director of Education, fearlessly leading and teaching 1,000s of students around the world the best practices for innovation and applying systems thinking to their lives and organizations.

Welcome to the first blog from the Eureka! Ranch and Innovation Engineering Institute team.  Here you will find a diverse group of innovators dedicated to changing the world by transforming innovation from a random gamble to a reliable system that delivers increased innovation speed and decreased risk.


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