How do you know if your organization’s innovation engine is succeeding or failing?

If you can answer yes to the next two questions, you’re probably on the right track.

  • Are you beating competitors to market?
  • Are you on time or advance of schedule?

But if any of the following problems seem familiar, it’s an indication that your innovation model may be failing you.

  • It takes too long to get new products to market. This could be for a variety of reasons but whatever it is, something is slowing you down.
  • When you launch a product, you don’t meet the target objectives you set. Whether you misjudged the market, or misinterpreted a customer’s needs, the product didn’t quite meet the mark.
  • Internal controls get in the way. Or when there is internal competition for resources, the more traditional or ‘core’ activities always win.
  • You build to your own specs and either over or under-build based on what the customer truly values and will pay for. In other words, you misjudge the value proposition.

Of course, we must take into account that not all innovation is the same. The type of innovation approach depends greatly on the starting point. The degrees of change from your current position and internal capabilities. An easy way to think about different innovation options can be seen in the following matrix.

innovation-model-1024x561

Mergers and Acquisitions are a great way of jump-starting your way into a new opportunity, and typically work best when the opportunities are closely related to your organization’s existing business.

Corporate Venture Funds are primarily a method of learning through another organization’s development efforts. This model is a strong option when the opportunity is large, but the concept is less closely related to the existing business and the capabilities gap is too difficult to fill without a partner.

The Framework model is a way to manage innovation ideas that enhance an organization’s current core business, and can be fully executed with existing internal resources and talent. This model is often called a ‘stage-gate’ process.

Finally, the Innovation Lab. The intention behind the lab is to execute disciplined tests and pilots to vet, shape and then fully develop successful growth opportunities. The testing leads to learning and clarification of the opportunities and success requirements.

You might be looking at core innovation, in which you’re trying to optimize existing products for existing customers, or adjacent innovation, in which you’re expanding from existing business into “new to the company” business. Or maybe it’s transformational innovation, and you’re developing breakthroughs and inventing concepts for markets that don’t yet exist. No matter where you find yourself in the innovation process, one (or a combination of several) of the models above should be a fit for you.