If you find yourself in the exhilarating and occasionally terrifying role of overseeing an innovation initiative—or even just participating in one—here are the most important principles to keep in mind.
Many innovation initiatives fail before they begin. Their desired outcomes are unstated or vaguely defined, their connection to the strategy and purpose of the enterprise is unclear, and the underlying opportunities are hazy and diffuse. Great innovators know what they are trying to achieve; they focus on fewer, bolder ideas and execute them with care. They have a clearly defined intent and desired outcomes, married to an equally clear strategy for achieving them.
The dumbest way to simplify a tough problem is to throw out all the hard parts. And yet this is precisely what many leaders urge their teams to do. Faced with a list of possibilities, they trot out their tired clichés: “What can we do differently next Monday?” or “Where are the low-hanging fruit?” The thing with innovation is that the hardest parts are often the only ones that really matter. If you don’t crack the tough core of a problem, your ideas are simply ordinary and easy to copy. Instead, identify the truly critical parts of the innovation concept.1 Work on them relentlessly until they’re solved. The easy bits you can usually do