Is the Search for Perfection Killing your Team’s Innovation Potential?

Innovation is a tricky business. You can’t pursue every idea that comes down the pipe. As a result, most teams that are charged with leading innovation in their organization try to narrow down their options. However they often do this by taking the idea back to the customer, sometimes multiple times. This looks like the right idea, doesn’t it? Keep going back to the customer until you get it right. Make it perfect and there won’t be any risk. What’s the downside to this approach? There are a number of issues, the greatest of which is the possibility that you will never launch. As long as the team is hoping to mitigate all possible risk, you will keep tweaking, challenging, and changing. Combine this with a moving target of customer wants and needs, and the odds of your team coming up with a perfect solution are slim. The second problem is that sometimes the team responsible for innovation leadership is not in synch with the team responsible for implementation of the great ideas. So ideas get discovered, discussed, and refined, only to be rolled out to an organization that is improperly configured, ill-equipped, or unprepared to make them happen. How can you keep this from happening in your team or organization? First, have a process to come up with new ideas that involves the people who will actually have to make it happen. One of the best methods we know is by using Innovation Games®. Get some customers involved in a non-threatening environment (no swarming allowed!) and figure out which problems can be solved, and which of these will have the greatest impact. Commit to leaving the room with a solution, not just to identifying the problems. Finally, make sure everyone leaves the table with a success roadmap in hand – something that involves real things like who, what, when, and why. All too often, great ideas blossom from brainstorming meetings, only to die on the vine because there’s insufficient structure to help them bear fruit. Finally, take a lesson from Agile-style development: recognize that inventions will never be perfect, but they can be better than what currently exists. There’s always demand for a “new and improved” version. Start shipping, and keep improving. Repeat. It won’t take too many successes before you’ll have created a true culture of innovation in your team or organization.

Keeping the ideas coming,

Megann and Steve



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