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Here’s another fantastic guest article from Woody Bendle on innovation success and the importance of the planning, preparation, and organization behind your innovation process:

 

Innovation is defined as the process of creating new (and differentiated) customer value in the marketplace, which can create a sustainable competitive advantage.

The whole point of innovation is to create a more successful future (however you define success), and “winging it” seldom is a strategy for success.  Innovation success doesn’t just happen on its own; it takes purposeful execution of an innovation process – which requires Planning, Preparation, and Organization.

A colleague, Doug Von Feldt, and I have developed an end-to-end innovation process over the years which has guided the development and implementation of many successful innovations.  But our nine-step i3 Continuous Innovation Process (see figure below) is not sufficient in and of itself.  While following the i3 Continuous Innovation Process can greatly improve your odds of innovation success, if you want to systematically innovate in the most effective and efficient manner possible, you need to Plan, Prepare and be Organized.

Planning

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower

This quote from President Eisenhower is incredibly insightful.  Seldom in battle (or when starting a new innovation initiative) do things go as planned. However, if you have planned well, unexpected obstacles can be addressed and successfully overcome.

Every innovation effort is a new adventure into the unknown.  You are in pursuit of something unique that will create new consumer value in the marketplace. It is impossible to know exactly how everything in the innovation process will unfold as you are coming up with, and creating this entirely new thing.  Put another way, you have next-to-no-idea what you are going to encounter.  But, to be successful at innovation, you need to plan to be successful.

Innovation planning means thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve your desired innovation objectives.

Innovation planning includes:

1. Setting goals

2. Identifying existing and needed resources and capabilities

3. Assigning and prioritizing tasks

4. Developing timelines

5. Establishing evaluation measures

6. Developing protocols for dealing with the unexpected

It is a given that your original ‘plan’ will need to be adjusted or possibly even abandoned entirely, but if you have planned properly, you won’t be completely “winging it” as you continue towards your innovation goal. And with proper planning, you will have agreed upon processes for dealing with most of the unexpected wrinkles you will encounter.

“One who has the ability to properly plan . . .  has tremendously increased his possibility of success.”  John Wooden – Legendary UCLA Head Basketball Coach (1948-1975) (Affiliate Link)

Preparation

“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” John Wooden

There aren’t many people throughout history more committed to planning and preparation than Coach Wooden. His successes on and off the court are a resounding testament to this.   Do you happen to know any other coaches who have won ten NCAA national championships (including seven in a row)?

Preparation, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the action or process of getting ready for some occasion, test, or duty.  Note that it says action, which means actually doing something.

That action in basketball is practicing drills, skills, plays and studying opponents. In innovation, preparation includes:

1. Developing required innovation skills and competencies through coursework and hands-on training – including Lean Six Sigma

2. Learning how to uncover unmet consumer needs

3. Brainstorming / coming up with new ideas

4. Evaluating opportunities

5. Creative rapid prototyping

6. 3P – Production Preparation Process

By having your teams regularly practice the above skills and activities, you will be developing highly effective and efficient strategic competencies to accelerate your organization’s growth through innovation success.

Organization

“One improbable key to productive experimentation [or innovation] is extreme organization. When a tool or ingredient is out of place, it’s distracting. This get’s amplified when time is limited . . .” – Chef Ben Roche

The above quote comes from a chapter chef Ben Roche contributed called “Experimental Kitchen” in Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft’s 2012 book Make Space (Affiliate link).

Make Space is a very cool resource that provides examples and tools for creating physical spaces highly conducive to creativity, collaboration, and innovation. And one of the underlying tenets throughout Make Space is that of organization.

Organized and Organization doesn’t necessarily mean “pristine” in this instance; but rather, it does mean orderly.  If you want to be effective and efficient throughout the innovation process, you need to know where things such as data, research, knowledge, tools and materials are.  These things need to be readily available and accessible to everyone on the innovation team. There are already plenty of challenges you are going to face throughout the innovation process and losing momentum by wasting time fumbling around trying to find things you need shouldn’t be one of them.

Now it’s your turn!

I readily acknowledge every organization and situation is different, which means there isn’t a universal exacting recipe for each and every innovation. However, adhering to the iContinuous Innovation Process can greatly improve your chances for success.  And through repeated execution (with a commitment to continual improvement) of this process, accompanied with the proper Planning, Preparation and Organization, you can become a highly successful innovator. Woody Bendle

 

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