All companies yearn for innovation, and particularly innovation from IT. A myriad of books and articles discuss how to build and sustain an innovative culture. Walk through any organization and you’ll see innovation departments, units or teams. Unfortunately, there is usually very little to show for their effort and investment.
Of course, if you were to comment that there is little to show, it would spark a contentious discussion. They would point out to you all their successfully completed initiatives and their creative ideas. But if you were to push further, you might get a different view of the accomplishments. Ask these questions, for instance:
- Did the initiative change the company’s competitive situation?
- Did the initiative improve the customer experience?
- Did the initiative change the employee experience?
- Did the initiative change the partner/supplier/vendor experience?
- Did the initiative result in gaining more customers?
- Did the initiative result in making the company more profitable?
In other words, what value did the initiative deliver? After all, companies often allocate substantial funding over time for an innovation initiative to do just that. So if there is no measurable payback, the company is no better off for its investment.
In assessing the payback, look at the outcome through the customers’ eyes (or the employees’ or partners’ eyes). The outcome must be impactful, must make a difference to these constituents. That’s how to determine if the initiative was worth the journey.
That may seem like a no-brainer, so to speak. But the fact is many companies actually deem their innovation projects a success simply because they get to the end of the project and they succeed at delivering something. But that is a very poor example of success. Just because they complete a project doesn’t mean it delivers value.
What causes failure?
A failed innovative initiative is one that does not deliver value in aspects such as those mentioned above – changing the competitive situation, employee or customer experience, making the company more profitable. The reason for failure often lies in the approach to the project.
The problem is many innovation initiatives come from a department whose job is to drive innovations. They look at technologies and capabilities and try to introduce them to drive innovation. Or sometimes, when a third-party service provider is involved, the provider may design a solution intended for multiple clients, not specifically aiming at just one client’s defined need.
So it’s often a case of technology looking for a problem, rather than having a problem and finding the right technology approach to solve the problem. Innovative ideas need to originate with the customer need, or with the customer or employee experience in mind; otherwise, it’s a situation of putting the cart before the horse.
When the cart must try to lead the horse, the result of the solution an innovation department generates will not resonate with customers, employees or partners and will not drive market share or competitiveness.
My advice for knowing whether your innovation initiative is worth the journey? Start with the problem, not the technology, if you want to deliver value. That’s the best approach to an innovation journey that can deliver explosive growth.
This article was written by Peter Bendor-Samuel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.