Innovation is… ACTION

Successful Innovations come from identifying the need (even if one never knew the need existed), building the right teams, and conducting the proper analysis to be able to implement them properly.


“It is not enough to just have a good idea. Only when you act, when you implement, do you truly innovate.” 

The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO's Strategies for Defeating the Devil's Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization [Hardcover] [2005] Tom Kelley, Jonathan Littman



So far we have identified two key areas of innovation: people and analysis.  But all is for naught if we don’t take action!  We can all look back and think of that great idea that sat on the shelf and today we regret not pursuing.  Whether it’s a better mousetrap or binoculars with instant replay, their ideas we have had that we wish we had pursued.

In the same book from which the top quote comes, they also define “innovation” as “New ideas—plus action or implementation—which result in an improvement, a gain, or a profit.” 

So what does it take to act?  The answer may seem trite but it’s clear: will.  Commitment.  Dedication.

So what are the steps were the action?  First, be open to the ideas themselves.  In your company is sure to encourage a culture that welcomes new ideas.  When these new ideas surface take the time (and build a process) to quickly vet the ideas.

Think of this as a cycle of innovation.  When the new idea is submitted, run the idea of past a team selected that can best evaluate this particular type of idea.  Yes, we’re taking the first critical component of innovation, the people, and building a small team to review the idea.  And yes, they are conducting a quick analysis to determine if this idea is even feasible.  The emphasis here is on quick.  The benefit comes from receiving, processing, and pursuing or rejecting ideas quickly.  Set in your term, but realistic, deadline for the team to provide their feedback and decision.  To ensure that good ideas or dismissed out of hand require any decision for or against the idea to provide specific feedback as to the strengths and weaknesses that led to the decision.  This is triage.

If the idea passes this first check, the next step of action is to send it to a team specifically designed to assess all the facets of the idea.  If this is a manufacturing process change, select a team of engineers and operators from the manufacturing floor.  If this is an idea for a new product, bring together product engineers, a marketing team, and perhaps some trusted customers.  Select the team that has both the experience and the analytical toolset to properly assess and develop the idea.  Just as before be sure to establish specific deadlines or milestones.  For small projects this can be as simple as “develop the idea, and submit for go-no go.”  For larger ideas, or for new products, a more rigorous set of milestones may be desired.  This could include initial prototypes, field testing, and perhaps market testing.

There is one penultimate act—commit to implementing the innovation.  Once the idea has been accepted, and developed, and you have determined the potential benefits (and assessed the risks) then commit to implementing.  Why is this the penultimate act?  Because as with all things one needs to go back, evaluate the impacts, and adjust as necessary.



What are we doing here really?  We’re simply providing a structure for innovation similar to our structure we bring to business processes and management every day.  In fact, you may already be saying “this sounds very familiar.  Isn’t this simply ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’?”

The answer is, of course, “Yes.”

Successful Innovations come from identifying the need (even if one never knew the need existed), building the right teams, and conducting the proper analysis to be able to implement them properly. 

So here’s my challenge for you—build a process today that encourages innovation through the capture, vetting, and development of ideas.  Institutionalize that process.  Reward the ideas, as well as the successful innovations.

And finally, do not be afraid to fail occasionally.  The greatest failure is truly the failure to innovate, and that failure comes from the failure to act.


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