Innovation Project Dos and Don’ts

Dos and Don’ts for a successful innovation project

At the beginning of a new year, many businesses consider doing innovation initiatives to refresh their products and services, or the ways they promote and deliver them. Planning and successfully running an innovation project is both a science and an art. Today, I share with you eight dos and don’ts of conducting a successful innovation project.

Beware of the don’ts to avoid project failure (mediocre, ordinary ideas and outputs), and heed as many of the dos as possible to enjoy project success (extraordinary ideas and innovation results).

  1. DON’T aim for too much in just one innovation project. The German idiom “egg-laying wool-milk-saw” describes the ultimate farm animal or something that can do everything. Too often, companies likewise want it all in just one project: coming up with meaningful new products plus ancillary services, plus new ways to distribute those, plus cool promotion campaigns, plus new business models to make money in novel ways.
    • DO focus on the most important issue you need to tackle. Run a product innovation project if you want to reinvigorate your product line. Do a campaign design project if you need new promotions. Conduct a business model innovation project if you want to find novel ways to get paid for your products and services. Your more likely to produce outstanding results if you focus on one target.
  2. DON’T attempt to do it all in one day — or even worse, in half a day.
    • DO invest the time needed to give you the standout results you crave. How much time should you make available? Ask yourself: “How important is success in this innovation project for our bottom line in the next 3 years?” Answer using the scale below, which gives you the number of days you should invest: 5 – Vitally important; 4 – highly important: 3 – important; 2 – quite important; 1 – not so important; 0 – not important at all.
  3. DON’T do innovation on the cheap. Invest in your future profitability.
    • DO commit the required resources needed to produce ideas that go beyond what everyone else in the industry is thinking. Apart from an adequate amount of time, other resources to commit include a decent number of internal people and a budget. For innovation projects high up on the importance scale, consider inviting external collaborators (e.g., suppliers or distributors, lead customers and target customers, creative agencies and of course professional innovation experts).
  4. DON’T head straight to idea generation (or Brainstorming) in your innovation project.
    • DO take the time to first explore your innovation case thoroughly to gain fresh insights into what’s your challenge really is. In almost all cases, the final challenge differs from the initial challenge perceived.
  5. DON’T use an ineffective innovation method with only one creative process stage.
    • DO ensure that the innovation method used in your innovation project has two separate creative process stages: First ideate to generate a large pool of raw ideas including wild ones. 
Then from the large pool of raw ideas, find those vital few ideas that really intrigue you, and design and develop those into full-fledged concepts that are well-elaborated, meaningful and realistic.
      In Thinkergy’s awards-winning innovation method X-IDEA, we call the said two creative process stages Ideation and Development.
  6. DON’T use only Brainstorming as sole or main creativity tool and interaction method. Brainstorming is popular but ineffective. Why’s that? A total of 25 research studies on the efficacy of brainstorming vis-a-vis brainwriting and other creativity techniques concluded: Brainstorming is an inferior technique and simply doesn’t deliver on the main objective of ideation: to produce a large pool of raw ideas.
    Moreover, most Brainstorming sessions led by inexperienced facilitators only lead to a small pool of “safe, acceptable” ideas. This is because typically, brainstormers fail to honor the four ground rules of Ideation (#1. No killing of ideas. #2. Go for quantity. #3. The wilder the better. Shoot for wild, crazy, funny, zany ideas. #4. Combine and improve on ideas.).

    • DO use other creativity and ideation tools (such as asking “what if”, employing metaphors or visiting ‘other worlds’) and ideation interaction methods (such as brainwriting or pool brainwriting).
  7. DON’T run the innovation project all by yourself. You’re an expert in  your industry, not an expert in how to plan effectively, scope and successfully run an innovation project. That’s why there is an entire niche industry of innovation companies such as Thinkergy that specialize in successfully guiding innovation teams towards meaningful innovation results.
    • DO engage the services of an experienced creativity coach or innovation company with a solid track record. Such professionals — back to Don’t (1)— should use a well-rounded, effective systematic innovation method with a sufficient variety of related innovation tools and creativity techniques.
  8. DON’T play it small and safe if you want to go beyond the normal, “acceptable” set of ordinary ideas that everyone else has, most of which would also emerge in a typical in-house brainstorming session.
    • DO dare to be bold and shoot for big ideas. After all, why would you want to innovate if you don’t dare to be different and extraordinary?

Curious to find out how we plan and run an innovation project at Thinkergy with the help of our awards-winning, systematic innovation method X-IDEAContact us to tell us more about yourself and your innovation project needs.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article is published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 21 January 2016.