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Any innovation project involves a degree of risk – there is always the chance that it might fail. It is important for any organization undertaking innovation to be aware of the factors that make innovations most likely to succeed. Moreover, to be able to identify those that are likely to fail.


Identifying Successful Innovations

The history of product and process innovation is littered with examples of apparently good ideas that failed. In some cases with spectacular consequences. Most organizations would own up to have problems with making innovation happen. Including a fair proportion of ideas that are never realized, and new initiatives that flop more or less embarrassed. However, a great deal of research has gone into identifying the key area in which organizations can focus to promote successful innovation. It might not be possible to guarantee success every time. But, paying attention to the key aspects can stack the deck in your favour. Bear in mind, innovation doesn’t happen by accident, but very careful planning. Factors in innovation success, including:

  1. Systematic and organized process: Innovation results from this process of managed change, turning new ideas into reality.
  2. Entrepreneurial skills: These lie at the heart of this process. But although “champions” who are passionate about change can make a lot happen, innovation is a team game, and managing it means involving people from across the organization.
  3. Creativity: This needs to be focused and directed.
  4. Understanding: Successful management of innovation needs a well-developed understanding of the process.
  5. Planning: It depends on good project planning and management – against a background of uncertainty.
  6. Teamwork: It needs effective project team working – the ability to work with others under uncertain conditions.
  7. Leadership: Innovation requires strategic leadership – having a vision and being able to share it.
  8. Learning a skill: Successful innovators have learning skills. The ability to analyse what works and why and to use this knowledge to improve the capability for the next time.


Case Study: Long-Term Innovation Culture

3M is a world-class product innovator. Best known for products like Post-it notes and Scotch tape. It has a history of innovation success in diverse fields: computer disks and tape, industrial coatings and abrasives, medical supplies, and office products. It began in 1901 as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Corporation. And its first attempts at establishing the business were not successful.

But the company persisted. Built a business that today sets gaols of getting 30% of its revenues from new products. It has spent 100 years refining its approach to innovation – and continues to succeed in doing so. Read more about 3M innovation – A century of innovation.


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Innovation and Invention: Make It Work

Innovation has often seemed as simply coming up with a bright idea. The idea is certainly important, but by itself is not sufficient. As an innovative manager, you need to be able to encourage new concepts and find ways to help make them happen.


1. Encouraging Creative Input

If innovation is about applying ideas. Then, you need to make sure that you have a plentiful supply of ideas to draw upon. Unfortunately, many organizations make the mistake of thinking that only certain people are capable of producing innovative ideas. Therefore, placing the development of innovation in an area far away from the rest of the workforce. In fact, anyone involved in a process at any level is likely to have ideas about how it can be changed and improved. And for innovation is mostly about incremental (“doing what we do better”) rather than radical change, even the most basic ideas can be worth considering.

Additionally, you should not attempt to limit innovation to research labs or in marketing meetings. In fact, it should be something to which everyone can contribute. Moreover, since innovation is a long process of making ideas work. Therefore, you can make use of this creativity at every stage of the journey.


2. Developing an Invention

Innovation is about ideas, but it is also about putting them into practice. While the inventor is a popular figure in marketing campaigns. In fact, many innovations come a long way from the initial idea before they become successful. Your creativity may be an essential starting point. But your task as a manager is to direct it to areas of your organization where it will be actively useful.


3. Balancing Creativity and Control

Besides that, another widespread myth is that innovation is solely about creativity. That all that is needed is an environment in which bright ideas can be explored. This is not true. In fact, it does not matter how many interesting ideas are flying around the place if nothing useful comes of them. Managing innovation is not only about unleashing creativity, but also about harnessing and focusing it. It is a balancing act. On the one hand, releasing the flow of ideas to create and sharpen up innovations. While on the other making sure the ideas are focused toward actually delivering results that benefit the organization. Without taking forever or consuming a vast budget. Hence, managing innovation means balancing creativity with direction and control.


4. Harnessing Creativity

Fast Track:
  • Supporting creativity across the organization
  • Investing in research and development
  • Listening to customers to find out what innovations they want
  • Building a strong internal innovation infrastructure
  • Using technology to solve product, process, and service problems


Off Track:
  • Failing to implement good ideas
  • Creating new technologies without first ensuring they will be beneficial
  • Missing out on breakthrough innovations not yet conceived
  • Neglecting ideas from outside the organisation
  • Focusing on technology and missing out on innovations