The 7 Key Principles of a Successful Innovation Program

by Sat Duggal

Custom Marketing Framework

Innovation is a catchphrase nearly every company uses at some point. Everyone wants to see themselves as innovative and cutting edge in their industry. But, even with the best of intentions, there are certain key principles that must be followed for an organization to successfully innovate consistently and programmatically in any meaningful way.

In fact, there are 7 key principles involved, which we’ll outline below:

Principle #1: Build the customer into the design of the program.

While this may sound obvious, many a company has gotten carried away by technologies, cost considerations or serving an existing business model. Kodak would be Exhibit One for the perils of not following this principle.

If you’re seeking to innovate in some aspect of your product line, service offerings, or any other business process, you need to do so with the customer experience at the forefront right from the beginning. If you fail to do so, you’re really innovating just for your own benefit, not for the benefit of the customer or to reach long-term revenue goals.

On the other hand, building a program around the customer experience right from the start ensures that innovation is an investment and you’ll be able to quickly and effectively monetize it upon completion.

Principle #2: Have an innovation strategy.

In other words, be able to answer the simple but vital question: why are we doing this? Is it to penetrate new customer accounts, grow our business with existing customers, enter new markets or something else?

Failing to do so all but guarantees disconnection between those conceptualizing the innovation and those tasked with carrying it out and/or making it successful. That disconnect will surely result in some very difficult hurdles in the way of success if not complete failure of the initiative.

But if the innovation is handled strategically from the start, every stakeholder will have the opportunity to support the initiative and embrace the changes necessary to make it work.

Principle #3: Be patient for long-term change, but impatient for short-term results.

This one is often difficult for executives with a passionate vision of where they want the company to be, but with less toleration or understanding of the sometimes tiny steps the organization needs to take to get there.

Striking this balance between understanding and accepting that long-term change will take time and effort. Taking the opportunity to celebrate small victories will allow the entire organization to enjoy sustained innovative momentum and the benefits of meaningful leadership support throughout the entire change process.

Principle #4: Learning as a unit of progress.

We often tend to think of innovation as an active process of doing something new and different. But, in fact, a large part of successful innovation involves education: learning where current processes fall short, learning how to improve them, then learning the improved processes until they can be practiced as efficiently as the old ones. Only then can true innovative progress be made.

Building adequate time for training and change management into the innovation program allows for a systematic reduction of risk while also improving the long-term chances of success because everyone involved in making the program work will be on the same page.

Principle #5: Fail faster, cheaper, and more often.

This is a key mantra of the lean manufacturing and agile project management philosophies, and it plays a vital role in successful innovation as well.

It’s far more important to attempt a “baby step” toward a valuable goal, fail quickly with little impact on the organization, and get right to work on the next attempt, than to spend far more time, money, and effort on a larger initiative, only to find it fails just as badly. The end result of the “baby step” failure is far less costly and provides the benefits of failure (training and continual improvement) more quickly.

Principle #6: Focus on the in-use experience.

This principle really focuses on the way the “system” being created to drive innovation is brought home to the people whose job it is to make things happen continually going forward.

We recommend creating what we call an “innovation accelerator” – a team created for the express purpose of accelerating the learning and decision making aspects of managing the changes required to successfully innovate. These teams will generally consist of both dedicated resources (change management professionals) and functional team members from across the organization. 

Principle #7: Use a combination of innovation models.

Famously, we’re all aware that “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Similarly, there are many different models an organization can use to successfully innovate and earn a healthy return on their investment in doing so.

In next week’s post, we’ll dive a little deeper into different  innovation models every company can explore. For now, remember that no one model offers the silver bullet for any organization’s innovation needs. An innovation strategy that employs multiple models not only has a better chance at success, but will allow the company to innovate more quickly and more effectively in the long run than a more limited effort.

If you’d like to discuss applying these 7 key principles of successful innovation to your own unique organizational circumstances, contact us and our marketing consultants will be delighted to talk to you about it.

Contact Us Today

Keywords: Custom Marketing Framework