From innovation idea to implementation – which ideas should you pick?
Our group had the fortunate opportunity to learn from John Parkinson as he keynoted a leadership webinar for us called “Lessons learned from running three corporate innovation centers.” John has had an amazing 35 year career as a business and technology leader in in multiple companies. He’s been a global CIO, run three major innovation centers, writes and speaks worldwide,(including CIO magazine) and currently is both an advisor and investor. So when he speaks, you can bet his lessons learned come from years of earned experience.
At Ernst and Young, John and his team generated enough ideas to save 100’s of millions of dollars a year in operating cost savings and 100’s of millions of dollars a year in new revenue. These were opportunities found with very little investment.
In my previous two posts, I highlighted John’s 10 myths of innovation and why you should stop looking for that “Eureka Moment.”
John’s main advice, then, was to develop a systematic process to talk to people throughout the organization, seek out and find ideas, rank them and then implement the ones that are worth implementing.
Once you set up a process to collect ideas, you will find many ideas throughout the organization. Collecting them will be generally easy. You’ll find a lot of these new ideas are already going on, but they aren’t always visible or lack support.
The challenge then will be to find ideas that can have a real impact or significant improvement in top line or bottom line performance.
Over the years, John has collected many ideas for the programs he has run or advised on. He analyzed 10,000 of them and came up with the following breakdowns of ideas:
- 50-70 percent of the ideas are related to either quality of life at work or routine operational improvement. Ideas like how to make a better way to run the copier or allocate the parking at the garage. John says these ideas don’t move the needle much, but their value is to build confidence and credibility within the organization and improve the culture of the company.
- 15-20 percent focus on either new or improved products or services.
- Only about 5% or less focus on new business models or new channels to market.
You may find disruptive ideas early on but they may be difficult to pull off with a program that hasn’t built its credibility.
So how do you choose?
The answer, according to John, is you need a way to filter the flow of ideas with a set of rational criteria.
John provided the following key criteria that he uses but cautioned that you should use these as a starter and develop your own, relevant criteria.
- Is there a strategic fit? Is this something that we do or close enough?
- Would be allowed to if we wanted to? (Legal and compliance review)
- How big an idea is this? What’s the potential for cost savings or new revenue?
- If we do this, how fast can the competition catch us?
- Can we afford it?
- Do we have the right people or can we get them?
- Is there a place in the business that can run it once it is developed?|
- How does this rank relative to other opportunities we have?
John says that if you apply these types of criteria in a systematic way and you’ll find your best sources for ideas and see what a pipeline of ideas look like.
Special thanks to John Parkinson for his excellent presentation!