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How to avoid spinning your wheels when trying to innovate

(Business) When trying to innovate, many companies spend time and money on hype that never yields results. Here’s how to innovate meaningfully.

startup success

startup success

Hope vs. hype: How to separate hype from real innovation

“A lot of companies are ‘innovating’ today and define the act as the introduction of something new, like an idea, method or device. However, in the corporate world, innovation is only valuable if it results in meaningful business consequences,” observes Iliya Rybchin, director of the Media & Entertainment Practice at Highnote Foundry.

Rybchin adds, “This is the innovation that is crucial to surviving, staying relevant and achieving long-term growth. And this is the innovation that CEOs and Board of Directors care about.”

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He notes that as companies continue to extract value from their innovation efforts, they actually waste a tremendous amount of time and money on “hype” rather than identifying transformative innovation.

So, how do you cut through all the hype and make business decisions around important the right trends and technologies to dramatically impact business?

In his own words below, Rybchin offers four tactics that decision makers must utilize to better identify and act upon impactful innovation:

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1. Manage Up

Companies must first prevent the forming of opinions with limited information and allowing outside “experts” to set the innovation agenda for your company. Do this by creating a managed internal fire hose of credible information that inoculates your company from hype. It’s important that management learns about innovative technologies, business models, startups and ventures from internal sources versus analysts, pundits, media and random strangers on flights.

A few ways to start managing the flow of information:

  • Host weekly think tanks with internal subject matter experts.
  • Invite a potentially disruptive startup to present to your company each week.
  • Attend vendor and venture capital networking events to learn (and present) roadmaps, products and ideas.
  • Hold weekly expert panels with key company stakeholders to review pipeline and sourcing activities.

2. Play Offense, Not Defense

Successful innovators think about making positive impact all day, every day – not simply when they read about a new technology in their favorite magazine. Proactive and consistent scouting and planning is essential to identify potential opportunities, keeping you ahead of the curve and allowing more time to assess, discuss, debate, prototype and market test innovation on your own terms and timeline.

One of the easiest ways to manage this function is by creating a centralized program that is managed by a small team of “scouts.” This team is responsible for:

  • Producing an internal innovation hypothesis that plots (and visualizes) potential areas to increase revenue, current areas of momentum and new ways to leverage existing abilities.
  • Building an organized network of companies and establishing external relationships to stay informed on competitors’ relevant projects, news and upcoming ventures.

3. Form an Opinion (and Don’t be Afraid to Change It!)

Innovative hype lies in the void created by the absence of a well-formed opinion, and often, poorly-formed opinions are a direct result of the need to make rapid decisions.

To quickly deduce answers to critical questions, make assumptions that fill knowledge gaps, explore contrarian views and reach a conclusion by evaluating the following dimensions:

  • Does the idea fit strategically: How well does the concept fit within current company strategic themes and business perspectives?
  • Does the idea fit the customer: How well does the concept align with the needs/wants of customers and their willingness to act?
  • Does the idea fit the brand: Is the concept “brand appropriate,” easy to communicate and newsworthy?
  • Does the idea have a real factor: How real is the concept or what evidence do you have to demonstrate market success? How significant is the concept’s impact on financial and other key business metrics? Does the concept feasibly fit within existing technical, geographic or operational constraints?

If your plan toward innovation passes the above line of questioning, present your opinion with confidence. But, remember that no opinion survives colleagues, executives and stakeholders. So, prepare to be flexible, open-minded and humble about your ideas for innovation.

4. Act Instead of Admire

Well-executed hype is better than poorly-managed hope. Insufficient analysis will not be the reason your innovation fails.. The most common reasons for failure include launching too early, giving up too soon, launching too late and hanging on too long. Advancing your business will always require a well-executed, repeatable plan of action. Key word being action.

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There is a baseline level of analysis that will always be needed. However, you should know when to put the PowerPoint and Excel spreadsheet aside and act. The time to build something comes much sooner than most people think.

After you build something… react, refine and repeat.

Innovation is messy and it doing it right involves rolling up your sleeves. There is no simple solution and there is 100 percent probability that mistakes will be made.

Ultimately, every organization must discover their own approach to proactively uncovering, evaluating and acting on potential innovations. However, smartly navigating through the hype using these tactics will put your company in a better position to achieve breakthrough results that deliver meaningful long-term corporate growth.

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The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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