Innovation has long been a mantra for business in the hunt for new ways to serve clients, cut costs, manage risks, disrupt markets, improve performance.

“Innovate our way to operational excellence!” becomes the rallying call.

But true innovation has an inherent risk of failure – and no guarantee of success, let alone operational excellence.

Fear of failure often means innovation ends up being a small, risk-free, incremental change….frustrating everyone.

Try this 7-step process to make innovation work:

  1. Generate and collect ideas – on an ongoing basis, and encourage your team and colleagues to do the same.  What can be improved?  The emphasis is on quantity, increasing the probability that you will find a winning idea.
  2. Characterise ideas – according to fit with the business environment, your people, market conditions and margin.  What makes the idea compelling right now?
  3. Turn ideas into opportunities – identify which of the ideas represent attractive business opportunities and prioritise by investment (time and money), risk and reward.
  4. Bring in stakeholders – identify stakeholders, understanding their needs and expectations, and put together a plan of action to manage communications and maximise engagement.  Get early buy in and acknowledgement of potential to fail.
  5. Experiment with small scale tests on selected opportunities to generate information to aid decision-making
  6. Succeed at lowest cost – invest the minimum time and money needed to provide a useful solution, then develop if successful, stop if a failure
  7. Record key learnings from successes and failures and build into the next opportunity.

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of old ones.” John Cage

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