In What Gear Are You Innovating?

How Fast Are You Innovating?

Ever been on the freeway and suddenly for no apparent reason, the guy in the “fast lane” – typically the one to the far left – seems to be driving under the speed limit. You then look around and realize that everyone else in front of you is doing the same? Isn’t it frustrating, especially when you are trying to make a meeting – shouldn’t they at least have the decency to drive at the speed limit?

If you think about the differences between startups and enterprises, one of the main attributes is speed to market for innovative new ideas. Whereas in a startup, your turn around time from idea to market could be as little as a few days to a few weeks (yes, it can be done depending on the nature of the product that you are developing), typically in large enterprises you have to go through periods of agreement and alignment, approvals and procedures, all of which take precious time away from the development schedule, and even then, after a sometimes protracted process, you could still end up with a no. There are some people who get this – they understand that in enterprises processes and procedures must be followed, although for some time sensitive innovative new products, you may require a different way of doing things. In what gear are you innovating?

You’re the intrapreneur within the larger organization, and you feel that every lane is blocked, everyone is driving under the speed limit, and because of that, you will probably miss the meeting (aka the launch date).

Assuming that you are interesting in liberating the innovation in your organization instead of suppressing it, you need that “fast lane” – an outlet for these product and service ideas which require a shorter time to market. You need a different process, which may circumvent some of the typical process, and then you can usher some products through that “fast line” pipeline. It might not be suitable for all products, but for some, where there is not a lot of risk involved in developing that product, (which is most products today) it may be the perfect place for it.

You get to develop the product, determine if there is a market for it, your internal innovators are happy that their ideas went somewhere, and your organization starts to look more innovative to the outside world (assuming that you announce the availability of the product publicly). It’s a win all around, and all you need to do is to set up that fast lane.

At one of our enterprise clients, we were tasked to set up an innovation program, which would capture ideas from all over the enterprise and funnel these idea into either the product development pipeline or the patent pipeline. Standard stuff, right? The only issue – the standard product development pipeline averaged a term of 18 months from start to finish – startups could handily beat that timeline and get their versions of the product into market much faster. We convinced our client that in order to make headway against this, that they should set up a fast lane process, applying the Lean Startup model, (building an MVP, using agile development) in order to bring products to market quicker. While there were some cultural issues in implementing this model, once it was up and running, other groups within the organization realized that some of those techniques where useful in speeding up their own processes. We were able to not only innovate from within, but also to expand innovative new processes and procedures within the organization.

Its not as hard as you think: in fact, you might be surprised at how quickly a fast lane gets approved, and how many will want to drive it.