Has your Innovation Program Jumped the Shark?

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Innovation programs and systems are launched with a lot of fanfare but the sizzle will fizzle unless you properly nurture your innovation program and the underlying policies, processes and systems you use to help deliver better innovation results.  How can you avoid this from happening?

“Jumping the shark” is attempting to draw attention to or create publicity for something that is perceived as not warranting the attention, especially something that is believed to be past its peak in quality or relevance – Wikipedia

Innovation systems are highly strategic in nature but many companies do not appreciate the difference with other information management solutions they already have in place. Most organizations start with CRM, payroll and finance applications and eventually add other systems to help streamline and automate customer interactions and maintain other important company records. When the business achieves scale more attention is placed on expanding the focus on innovation and creating a sustainable system to ensure the company maintains and expands its competitive advantage.

Not all enterprise systems are equal

The first thing organizations need to do is to recognize the difference between Run the Business (RTB) and Change the Business (CTB) solutions. Each system requires a completely different deployment approach and management strategy as well as various other important considerations such as future updates and expected ROI.

Mission critical systems

With RTB, also known as mission critical, systems the intent is to lock down the system as much as possible, avoid changes that create disruption and minimize any risk to the enterprise. An ERP solution is a prime example of an RTB system.

These systems tend to require a longer time to deploy and a phased adoption. Organizations start with detailed analysis to document the processes and create a solution blueprint. Once a clear project scope is defined a waterfall approach is used to deploy the solution. Normally the project has well-defined phases and it takes several months if not years to complete. ROI is measured in years and the business case is approved if ROI shows lower double digit or higher payback.

Mission critical systems: Set it, lock it down and forget it

Strategic systems

On the other hand, with CTB systems, also known as Strategic information systems, it’s all about designing and welcoming change and constantly trying different things. By their very nature, you must expect to continuously tweak and transform to get better results. An Innovation Management solution being a prime example of such systems.

These systems tend to demand a quick starting point. Organizations start simple and define a use case that can demonstrate immediate value. Based on results, the organization looks to make additional incremental changes on an ongoing basis. An agile and iterative approach is used to deploy the solution as well as for future initiatives to update and expand the system. Normally the initial deployment and subsequent rollouts take only a few short weeks and sometimes just days to complete.  ROI is measured in months and the business case is approved if ROI shows substantial payback.

Strategic systems: Quick launch with continuous improvements by design

Quick tips

Here are some tips to help your innovation program stay the course and help you reap even stronger returns in a sustainable manner:

  • Set realistic objectives and be honest about what you are willing to take on and commit to from the get go. Strategic systems can create a lot of excitement and you need to make sure you have the right plan to create value and not just noise.
  • Measure Success by properly defining your initial innovation objectives, baselining current results and settling on the key performance indicators to measure success. Based on the latest Forrester Wave on Innovation Management, 91% of companies are unable to generate a reliable ROI for their innovation management solution. A lot of more thought and care should go into making sure results are captured, reported and celebrated to help your innovation program grow and prosper.
  • Allow for flexibility by deploying a system which helps you create more consistency in your approach while providing more versatility in the type of innovation activities you leverage. Innovation is all about pushing the envelope and trying new things. Your innovation system should help you run different focused campaigns that involve various constituents in a diverse manner. Some popular innovation activities: Challenge Driven Innovation, Innovation Jam, Shark Tanks Competition and Decision Sessions. 

Periodic reviews

Strategic systems should be reevaluated to ensure you are getting the right value both for the software as well as the solution provider you work with. To avoid your innovation program from Jumping the Shark, ask yourself these questions at least once on annual basis:

  • Is your innovation program currently having good participation and engagement?
  • Are you able to develop and prioritize your ideas as you had originally expected?
  • Would you prefer better reporting on your innovation metrics and portfolio?
  • What are your innovation KPIs telling you about the success you are having?
  • Can you run different innovation activities and try new things?
  • How would you rate the effectiveness of your experiments in terms of time, cost and learning?

Unless you are completely satisfied with the answers then it is time to look for a better approach. I would love your comments on how you measure success with your innovation efforts?


Note 1: The Forrester Wave: Innovation Management Solutions, Q2 2016 April 2016