Innovation Myth:  “We Can't Innovate Without Great Ideas"

Innovation Myth: “We Can't Innovate Without Great Ideas"

Kevin Fallon / Monday, October 17, 2016 / Innovation Management

A Fortune 500 executive recently said, “don’t talk to me about ideas. The problem is we have too many ideas; we just can’t execute on innovation.” I totally agree.

The key constraint in innovation is the time and energy of people required to drive discovery, invention and transformation into business value. So it’s not your ideas – what’s important is the act of innovating, the process itself. 

Relatively speaking, ideas rank less than 12.5% in importance to the total innovation process. 

What could be more important than ideas, you ask? After all, we conjure up images of eureka moments and pictures of lightbulbs depicting flashes of genius, but this is false. The concept of the eureka moment as a key tenet of innovation was actually debunked in 1946 by Genrich Altshuller after studying the inventive principles of over 200,000 patents.

Based on our research, I break down the percentage of importance on significant components of the innovation process this way:

  1. Goal Setting:  50%.  The most important element in developing an innovation is setting a transformative goal that will provide value to an outside entity.  Thomas Edison captured this when he said, “I do not want to invent anything that won’t sell. Its sale is proof of utility and utility is success.”

  2. Developing Knowledge:  12.5%. information to gain insight stimulates novelty thinking and influences how you think about an innovation. Being informed about your customer allows you to expand your thinking. There are two challenges for a company when it comes to information and knowledge:  how to efficiently acquire it and distribute it. Building this capability is more important than idea generation.   

  3. Design Selection: 12.5%. Selecting how and where to advance an innovation design is vital.  The path you choose my lead to learning or may lead to success. In many cases, companies drive on innovation paths that have no value to customers and quickly learn after it’s too late that the innovation is not well accepted in the market. Much of this waste can be tested in advance.

  4. Actual Design:  12.5%.  Design evolution and prototyping are also central to innovation. This is where real work brings the innovation to life. If you have shortcomings, compliment your capabilities with outside experts. This will help you shorten design cycle times.

    What's left?

  5. Ideas:  12.5%. Ideas keep the ball rolling toward a new product, service or transformation but carry the same weight as developing knowledge, decisions and design. Critical thought should be put into the feasibility and potential success of the idea, but the idea itself does not make or break the innovation process. 

An important thing to remember is that although working through the elements outlined above advances an innovation, these percentages do not account for market success. Studies show that approximately 50% – 80% of new products fail in the market after development. 

While it’s not clear exactly how much of the shortfall is due to a weak goal vs. poor market launch, based on my analysis it’s the experimentation towards your innovation goals that matters most, even further reducing the importance of your idea. 

Take a hard look at the process you have in place and the percentage of time you are spending in each area.  Some fine-tuning or a better innovation management software program may be necessary to make your innovation process more effective.

Did you enjoy this post? Check out Myth #2: Fail Fast, Fail Often Is The Secret To Innovation

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