Innovation Delivery Checklist
A short post on how to deliver innovation.
I often get asked how to deliver innovation and end up responding that innovation is not a product, you can not build 10 units of innovation. Instead it is a framework that you set up that allows innovation to flourish and creative ideas to evolve.
Setting up that framework can be hard, you need a checklist.
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Innovation Delivery Checklist
Innovation generally refers to changing or creating more effective processes, products and ideas, and can increase the likelihood of a business succeeding.
Businesses that innovate create more efficient work processes and have better productivity and performance. For businesses, this could mean implementing new ideas, creating dynamic products or improving existing services.
Innovation can be a catalyst for the growth and success of business, and help you adapt and grow in the marketplace. Being innovative does not mean inventing; innovation can mean changing your business model and adapting to changes in your environment to deliver better products or services.
Successful innovation should be an in-built part of your business strategy, where you create a culture of innovation and lead the way in innovative thinking and creative problem solving.
Businesses that innovate create more efficient work processes and have better productivity and performance.
Innovation is not so much as structuring a process but more about creating enough freedom to see differently, act differently, and aim higher.
Delivering the Innovation Process
A useful technique can be to breakdown the process into a series of steps so that the process of seeking and implementing new and innovative ideas can be controlled and structured to a certain extent.
I have used the acronym DEAL to summarise the innovation delivery checklist process. I have used this process to successfully deliver innovation for a number of technology projects.
To see more resources that you can use, check out the resources page, here.
Step #1- Define
With any project it is important to define what you are after. This can be in terms of objective or might be a process improvement.
As part of this process it is often useful to benchmark your starting point so that you have data to compare against.
I did a project for a client to improve the quote turnaround process. We started with benchmarking the full cycle of the quote process which started with receiving the request from the client, validating and seeking approval of that request, analyzing and preparing the quote, getting the quote approved the internal due diligence process, issuing the quote, responding to customer queries on the quote and finally closing and getting sign off on the quote.
We needed to benchmark each of the steps in the process in terms of days to be able to understand and see whether any changes made would improve the process.
Define what you are after.
Once we had the steps defined and benchmarked we could see where improvements were reducing the turnaround time.
Step # 2 Eliminate
Overhead and legacy are natural barriers to innovation. Just because something has always been done a particular way does not mean that it cannot be improved or enhanced.
To drive innovation you need to remove this legacy thinking and strip back what you are trying to innovate and improve and focus on the core of what you are doing.
At a client that I worked with there was a legacy of management reporting in the process by which sales orders were called out. The result was that the poor sales person was required to enter and maintain his forecast in 4 different systems. There was constant pressure to keep the systems in sync, as they were being used and tracked by different back office teams. The overhead meant of course that the sales people were spending more and more of their time updating four different systems rather than working on new leads and closing sales.
Step #3 Action
Innovation will not magically appear; it needs to be worked on. People and teams tasked with delivering innovation and process improvements need to take action.
This can start with a lean canvas method used by many start-ups to paint out how the delivery maps to what the vision and values of the project or business relates to. This forces everyone to review what they are striving for and creates feedback loops.
Once the lean canvas is mapped out then a process of iterative testing and validation can be used to enhance the process. The feedback loops, data created and testing ensure that the process improvements keep lining up with what the vision/value/ objective of the project was.
Unless the project keeps checking back there is a risk that process improvements may be made but which do not relate to the initial project objective.
This is a process of action, test, validate, innovation, win.
For example I did a cloud-based project in the early days of SAAS (Software as a service). We started with a prototype offering where customers started with a 2 CPU offering for their virtual machines.
The expectation was that almost 80% of customers would like the service and upgrade to the next level and use more computing power. At the end of the 1st month, there had been no upgrades or upsells.
However we noticed that most customers were using 90% of their CPU capacity, for most of the month. Using this data we did an email update to the customers offering a free upgrade to a higher number of CPUs as we had noticed their utilization was running so high. The offer was free for a month and then they could choose to downgrade or continue and pay the increased service price.
The result was a 100% conversion and upsell at the end of the 2nd month.
Step #4 Liberate
Finally enough creative thinking time needs to be allocated to allow staff and teams to deliver innovation.
Like Atlassian and the Nobel Prize winners this needs to be baked in as a regular activity so that it is continual process and not just a once off. People need to feel that they own the innovation and creativity process. They just need to be given the time to do so.
Deploying innovation is disruptive. It is not in our comfort zone, it involves major changes.
How can we have functional disruption, ensure that it is in the right direction?
Innovation systems are about networks of individuals and organizations that act and interact within a broader environment.
The winners of the Nobel Prize for physics, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov carved out time in their hectic schedules for “Friday evening experiments” which were un-related to any grant funding or papers that they were required to write. These Friday evening experiments were where they made their breakthrough that led to the Noble prize. In other words the non-funded, non-required, non-official work was the one that lead to the breakthrough.
This approach to creating enough time for creativity and innovation has been adopted in the non-scientific world as well.
Leading software developer Atlassian uses what they call “FedEx” days to drive the process of innovation from their staff. The concept involves these one-day bursts of autonomy allow people to work on anything they want (as long as it’s not part of their regular job) — provided they show what they’ve created to their colleagues 24 hours later.
The key point to note is that innovation is often best sourced from those within an organization, as they are the ones working with the process, products and current ways of doing business. The existing staff will have ideas on how to improve and enhance what they do every day.
I did a lean manufacturing project for a market leading mobile phone handset manufacturer. It was to look at the handset returns process and see whether we could improve the customer service experience and at the same time reduce costs. In other words a reverse logistics project.
There were approx. 100 workers who worked on the repair line handling the returns coming in, initial assessment, repairs and sending out the fixed mobile phone.
Unfortunately the staff was so busy and committed to the existing process that when we first asked them what improvements they thought could be made, they had no suggestions.
We then worked with the management team to allow a small team of 6 representing the different stages of the returns line to come off the line and go for a 1 hour walk each day with the consultants. The staff was still paid for their time, but they spent the time walking through a local park/ bush land reserve.
The time away from the line allowed them space to think and talk about what improvements could be made. The ideas started to flow. We started to adopt the suggestions in small increments. As most of the processes had been benchmarked prior to starting it was easy to see where improvements were made. For example a small change in the inbound receiving process reduced the end-to-end turnaround by 2 days.
Further small increments were made. Some worked and improved the process; others had little or no effect. This is also important in the innovation process to allow testing and often failure. To fail is not a bad thing as long as it allows lessons and improvements to be made.
The opportunity to test, validate, innovate, pivot and win is important.
The other key point is that staffs need to be given the free time and headspace to think creatively to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things. If there is no let up in day-to-day busyness then the creativity will not flow.
Business leaders know this instinctively but it can be hard to have the courage to step back and free up people to allow creativity and innovation to flourish.
Having a process or a checklist to manage those steps through a structured plan can be useful.
Keys to success in delivering innovation
Get all of this you have an investable project, a lens to focus investment
Stages of Innovation
Stages of innovation- a spiral process not a linear process, to allow back checking throughout the process.
Before promoting a project we need to know what are the values and vision. How much change can we have before we move off the vision and values. Innovation does not happen in a vacuum that is why collaboration is critical component of the innovation system.
Key to innovation is leadership activation, less risky approach, more collaborative. Start with Skills gap assessment, how can they be up skilled on the innovation approach by the time you go out with your change project there is deep adoption
Highest leverage of an investable project, focus on
Need open data and real world context. Informed visualization
Delivery of innovation is not product based but done by creating environment in which innovation and creativity is encouraged to flourish.
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