Mission Critical – Innovation Back-End Delivery

by Paul Hobcraft

Mission Critical - Innovation Back-End DeliveryWhy is it that for some firm’s innovation seems to be incredibly rewarding yet for the majority it remains at best an unfulfilled promise. Why does innovation present such a stark choice, often fraught with difficulties for many, yet so simple and successful for the few? Innovation delivery is one of those differentiation points.

Let me suggest here nine points needing your consideration when it comes to thinking through the innovation back end delivery part. Execution as I have outlined in a previous blog, is the final rugged frontier- the tough one to truly master as it is so variable in its makeup. Just consider:

Point one: the key to successful innovation is not idea generation or putting all your creative efforts into the front end of innovation, ideas are always plentiful; it is turning this myriad of ideas into market or customer changing outcomes that successfully deliver based on understanding the customer’s needs.

Point two: There are no silver bullets for execution that is simply a fact. For any established business it is striving to perform above known standards. The ability to sustain leadership in the market is not just about the new product but about the execution and delivery of this. Executing well you have to be ruthless as the market is unrelenting, so you must make designated people accountable to meeting or exceeding standards. Normally innovation delivery needs a highly engaged executive involvement. The innovation delivery part cannot be devolved; it has to be well orchestrated.

Point three: Innovation is always swimming in uncertain waters. As uncertainty rises, the value of a well-thought-out strategy actually drops. There are constantly arising critical unknowns and sometimes all you are left with as your innovation emerges is actually a starting point, a launching point that needs rapid understanding and interpretation to build quickly upon, to yet fully capitalize upon in suddenly hitting a ‘rich vein’ of untapped need.

Point four : So you really do have to be ready to adapt, be agile, be ready to experiment, explore and learn, hence why execution is actually the harder end of the innovation process to get right. Everything hangs off a hypothesis, a set of assumptions, a ‘germ’ of an idea and needs to be proven in its delivery. When innovation is at the heart of your strategy, you need to zero in to the best possible execution strategy and constantly review this as successful delivery provides the validation. What you learn has to be feed back fast into the organization so you need to make sure the listening and responding parts are switched on to ‘receive’ this new information.

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Point five: Often the lack of a clear formalized decision making process for commercialization and going-to-market is not present. Corporate leadership often leaves this to lower levels to execute, yet those ‘responsible’ struggle due to a lack of fact-based safety nets, managing the levels of uncertainly that innovation has and the often reluctant to seek out leadership engagement to resolve conflicts.

Point six: Far too often senior executives are engaged elsewhere and those left in charge of the execution process lack the courage to make often tough and game changing decisions. This often damages optimal innovation delivery as teams often adopt safety first principles.

Point seven: The ability to move an idea to implementation – with increasing agility – is what will distinguish the successful organization from the less successful. The ability to execute well remains a critical gap of performance. Innovation requires a deeply imbedded set of capabilities. Innovation is high maintenance but also offers high reward.

Point eight: The increasing complexity within markets, the global pressures of consistent breakthrough or disruptive innovation happening consistently all around us is making successful innovation harder.  The increased emphasis on new business models are causing escalating problems as well, changing approaches to market or challenging core offerings that were previously accepted. Complexity at the innovation delivery stage calls also has no different a need for a higher level of getting organized, keeping discipline and executing effectively. Staying alert to the rapid changes occurring daily.

Point nine: Innovation delivery requires having the right capacity in place, at the right time, to drive execution through to its identified end points. Innovation delivery is where many decisions are often muddled through. Market ‘alertness’ and fast reaction times is becoming more crucial than ever. This needs building into your delivery part- adaptive alertness.

The relationship between innovation efforts and their success lies increasingly in understanding the “go-to-market’ phase – executing the innovation delivery based on understanding clearly the customer and market needs.

Innovation should not be a mystery but it is hard to go from end-to-end without a real recognition that focused effort on the back end delivery part is a relevant, extremely important part of the innovation process, for achieving the return expected from all the total efforts that goes into it from that original idea.

Editor’s Note: If you enjoyed this article, then you should come join Braden Kelley and Rowan Gibson live at the Back End of Innovation conference on October 17-19, 2011 in beautiful, sunny San Diego, CA.

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Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

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