“The people really winning here are adapting to consumers and the marketplace.
We just have to move faster”
Mark King, President, Adidas
I totally agree with him.
In a fast-moving world, where everything can be copied you simply have to innovate better and faster than the competition.
But how do leaders accelerate innovation?
Here are 9 suggestions:
1. Leaders have to articulate a Why innovation needs to be faster story.
One that is believable and compelling.
If you are asking people to change then you need to give them a story why.
2. Leaders need to role-model their own behaviour
Ask yourself are you making fast decisions?
Are you the one actually holding up the process?
Are you constantly talking about the need to accelerate innovation?
3. Set some metrics
This is an obvious point but leaders need to know how long the current innovation process takes.
Then decide on what is the ideal result and work out a plan to close the gap between the two.
And keep measuring this.
4. Use a second process for smaller projects.
Many large companies use a stage-gate process.
This is an effective process for larger innovation efforts.
But what about smaller problems?
This is why I have developed the small wins innovation process (i.e. create, test, measure, learn & share).
It presents a quicker alternative than the stage gate one which in turn can free up this process for the bigger initiatives.
5. Generate better, ideas – quicker
One of the slowest parts of the innovation process is brainstorming.
It often takes a long time to organise and get time free in people’s diaries.
A better approach is to use my tool called Ideas Blitz.
This is a lightning fast process that can help you generate big ideas in minutes.
What about asking your partners or suppliers for 3 big, new ideas every month.
Or crowd-source some new ideas within the staff or with outside creative people.
6. Work with smaller teams
There is a tendency with big projects to instantly establish big teams.
But bigger teams are often slow, bureaucratic and sometimes members have competing agendas.
Smaller, fast-moving SWAT teams will accelerate progress.
The bottom line with teams?
Go for diversity not size.
7. Make the evaluation criteria explicit
I often work with leaders who bemoan the lack of focus with the idea of employees.
I ask them — have you actually told your team members what ideas you are looking for?
Giving employees a focus (e.g. we are looking for ideas to improve our customer service that we can test within 90 days).
And also tell them how the ideas are to be evaluated (e.g. timeliness, cost and practicality etc) will mean that the ideas are better aligned with the needs of the situation and fast-track the process.
8. Speed up the approval process
This another common frustration in any innovation process.
I once entered an idea in an employee submission program (hen i was much younger) and 3 months later i received the feedback that the idea was submitted on the wrong form.
Needless to say I never did that again!
Ask yourself who needs to approve an innovation process?
Can some smaller projects be delegated to middle managers for example?
9. Do an initial business case early
It has been my experience that in many stage-gate processes the business case for a new product or service is not done until the end of the process.
By then it is too late.
Too much time, energy and political capital has been spent on moving the project though all the stages.
Much better to build a business case early on.
How will this project make money?
Who will buy it?
What makes it different?
If you cannot answer these questions easily and quickly then it is better to move on to another project.
By doing so you will free up resources to allocate to higher potential projects and you can accelerate these.