Welcome to the Innovation Front End. I'm Don Ross and this is my blog that focuses on how companies can do a better job during the early phases of the innovation process. Companies that are the best at driving organic growth through innovation in products, services or technologies have a dedicated front end process in place. The following entries capture some of the best ideas, theory, and practice of the Innovation Front End. "

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beyond Tilting at Windmills

Breaking the “quick fix” innovation cycle through technology discovery

Tight budgets, limited time frames, reduced headcount, quick to market pressures – all are part of the new R and D normal; especially post the great recession.  Finding quick answers to today's burning performance problem is systemic and fueled by management's demand for instant reporting.  

I'm sure you've seen the symptoms of a constrained innovation environment
  • Firefighting with no time to think about underlying problems
  • Relying on existing "comfort" models for solutions leveraging what we already know
  • Avoiding unknown unknowns - what we don't know we don't know

When constrained we avoid the essential part of the front end of innovation - Discovery

The result?  We become self limited innovators

According to Blaine Childress, Sealed Air’s Manager of Open Innovation

"Engineers or scientists limit their search and identify only the defects that can be fixed with some minor change to formulation or process condition and never puts real effort into finding the root of the problem and developing a more fundamental and sustaining solution."

While urgency does drive innovation, when teams choose the quick fix they often overlooks the greater innovation opportunity.

Like Don Quixote and his side kick Sancho, many innovation teams are "tilting at windmills."  

  • They don't take time for discovery to define the right problems to solve
  • They only apply what they already know and is accepted by management
  • They extend existing technology rather than considering new approaches and capabilities that might change the game
Achieving higher levels of innovation under today's constraints is very possible, provided you change the innovation environment and break the rules a little bit.

How to Break the Rules
  • Create a forum for Discovery that engages a true multidisciplinary team
  • Challenge the team to assemble a strong external perspective, broadening the opportunity space
  • Utilize external expertise to reduce R and D costs and time
  • Embrace thoughtful consideration of issues and opportunities that go outside what we already know
  • Use a team learning and synthesis process to identify value paths to success

A Case Study of Success

This past April, Blaine Childress, Sealed Air’s Manager of Open Innovation and I teamed up to share how we are enhancing Sealed Air's external innovation program at the PDMA's Innovate Carolina  conference in Raleigh, NC.  

We created a Front End Discovery Forum using Innovare's Tech Explorer approach.  

By doing so we shifted their process paradigm to better address customer needs and drive innovation within a resource-constrained environment.  

Our presentation describing our approach with real life examples from wind energy, water conservation, and food packaging can be viewed in the following  Slideshare.  

View it in full screen mode!

No comments:

Post a Comment