When More Innovation Isn’t Your Best Option

by Kevin Namaky

Stressed Innovator

The more innovation, the better. That seems to be the going mantra. After all, who wouldn’t want to come up with something new? You can gain additional share of existing markets, or even create new ones.

But there comes a tipping point. One where more innovation doesn’t help a business. It hurts it. When improperly paced (i.e., pacing too many projects too quickly), the business’ ability to execute with excellence can quickly diminish. And too often, pacing isn’t given the proper consideration as part of the upfront innovation strategy—setting good ideas up to fail due to poor execution.

Don’t be one of those cases.

Yes, you should always be working quickly towards your next “big thing.” But you don’t necessarily want to move quickly to add more projects to the list if you already have a number of projects in queue.

Here are five cases when more innovation might do more harm than good.

1) Internal Resources Can’t Keep Up

Consider how taxed the different organizational functions are. Look at the complete picture of market research, technical development, regulatory, legal, customer service and marketing.

Do you have enough internal capacity (people) to pull off every project with excellence?

2) Can’t Support the Launch in Market

This one comes down to money. Organizations have a finite level of resources devoted to marketing each year. It’s reality. And while increasing budgets for new launches is ideal, there are practical limits to what organizations either can or are willing to do.

New product/service launches typically require minimum levels of support to be successful. Not just in year 1, but also years 2, 3 and possibly beyond. What does that level of support look like for your organization and how many can you support on an annual basis?

If a great product or service launches and you can’t let anyone know about it, it may die without ever having a real shot at success.

3) Sales Team Pitching Too Many New Offerings

Similar to internal capacity, pay particular attention to the number of things on the plate of your sales organization. Internal divisions or brands may be heatedly competing with each other for the attention of sales.

If the sales team is spread too thin, you’ll have trouble getting products to market. This is particularly true in industries like consumer goods where, if you can’t get retail distribution, your product has little chance of surviving.

4) Too Much New News for Customers/Retailers to Take

Retail customers will almost always tell you they want innovation. But when it comes time to modify their planograms, they tend to be risk-averse. While they may a few changes that seem to have the best chance of success, there are limits to what they are willing to do.

A retailer adding or swapping one (maybe two) items in their set each year is a realistic scenario. Expecting them to make numerous or frequent changes… unrealistic.

5) Too Much Behavior Change for End Users to Accept

Some innovations aim to align products and services with current consumer behavior. Others aim to promote a behavior change among end users. Neither objective is wrong. But people tend to be creatures of habit. It’s often unrealistic to expect major shifts in behavior over short periods of time.

How can you pace your innovation so that end users can gradually adapt their behavior over time? Does it make more sense to break the innovation pathway down into smaller parts over time?

The Benefits of Pacing Out Innovation Launches

In short, pacing out innovation allows the business to execute better, create higher quality products and experiences, reduce technical/engineering issues, and provide marketing and sales support that increases success rates.

What could you do if you slowed down an overloaded pipeline and then redirected some of those resources to current business? Your next best $1 spent might actually be using current offerings to increase penetration or pursue new target audiences. Perhaps you have distribution gaps on your launches from last year. Can you work with sales to get better traction there?

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, you want to move swiftly to capitalize on innovation opportunities before competitors do. You simply want to do it in a way that balances your opportunities and allows you to follow through with excellence.

Each business has a unique context. Your business may need more innovation. But, it also might not… at least not so much so soon. Think about it.

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Kevin NamakyKevin Namaky is the founder of Gurulocity, a marketing education company. Our mission is to help marketers create change in their organizations by honing their craft. We provide content that helps you unlock your team’s full potential.

About Kevin Namaky

Kevin Namaky is the Founder of Gurulocity. As a corporate brand leader and as the Head of Strategy at a global consulting firm, he’s created billions in new value for Fortune 500 companies. Kevin founded Gurulocity to help marketers create change in their organizations by honing their craft and unlocking their team's potential. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

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