Ideas Are Cheap

March 22, 2016 Carrie Nauyalis

The front end of innovation focuses the ideation stage. It is a place of creativity, crowdsourcing, and collaboration. It involves sticky notes, labs, interviews, and sometimes arts and crafts, all in the name of capturing the voice of the customer to deliver “the next big thing.” The right-brained people in the room absolutely LOVE this stage.

There are super-sexy software tools that abound in the marketplace to support this stage. They are Facebook-like in usability and (almost) everyone gets very excited about submitting ideas and voting on them to see the winners. Companies brand these solutions with clever names and celebrate ideation program launches with great color and flair.

But tell me why at the Stage-Gate Innovation Summit this month did Dr. Edgett report that the average performing companies in the industry only have a 45% success rate for the 3-year commercial success of launched products. That is a terrible return on your investment – essentially 50/50 odds! And the story is even worse for the bottom performers in the industry with only a 24% product launch success rate. That stinks!

There are dozens of factors that influence the successful launch of a new product, but I’ll share my top 3 front-end-focused truths:

1. Ideas Are a Commodity

Here’s the thing: Most companies actually DO have plenty of ideas. What they don’t have are the RIGHT ideas – the breakthrough ones that will truly change the game and create new categories where their competition can’t touch them. Pipelines are often crammed with line extensions, safe bets, and “me toos.” That’s not innovation. Filling the funnel with more of these time/money/resource-wasters will not help you achieve your company’s growth goals. They just clog the pipe.

2. Ideas Alone Are Not Enough

My favorite quote is: “Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshiped.” It highlights the fact that capturing good ideas is great, but that’s not the hard part. Getting projects through the funnel and winning products out the door is. Innovation teams get enamored with the visual appeal of these front-end ideation tools and call it done. The challenge that we see and industry analysts confirm in their innovation management vendor research is that most ideation tools have one major flaw – no execution. All guts and no glory. All bark and no bite. Just like the gated idea to launch process, companies need an end to end solution.

3. Ideas Without Resources Are Just Pretty Sticky Notes

The number one pain point we see across the board year after year is there are too many ideas and projects for the number of resources. (Just check out the Product Portfolio Management Benchmark study and read the findings for yourself.) If your company suffers from this affliction, stop focusing your innovation dollars on ideation. Filling the pipe with new ideas is not your problem. Creating capacity for innovation and ensuring projects are properly prioritized and executed with the right resources is where you need to focus your attention.

Planview recently partnered with CIMdata to present a new model for Enterprise Innovation Management (EIM). An important theme arose from this research and subsequent webcast, Innovation: A Cautionary Tale of Fragmented Processes and System, namely that ideas are a cheap commodity, a dime a dozen.

Yes, ideas are necessary for a healthy commercialization process and supporting software tools are critical when your problem is missing the voice of the customer or a roadmap that is lacking differentiated products scheduled for launch. But don’t confuse ideation with innovation. Filling the pipeline with MORE ideas will not result in improving your odds at delivering successful, innovative products to market. (We call this the shotgun approach and it doesn’t yield great results.) Ideas can come from lots of places, but are worthless if you don’t have the resources to execute them.

I’d like to hear from you. How are you gathering ideas to ensure you are bringing successful products to market? Share by leaving a comment below.

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