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5 Reasons why innovation needs structure

What differentiates winners from losers? Winners don’t leave things up to chance, not in sports, music, or business, and certainly not when it comes to innovation. You need a structured innovation management approach to ensure that innovating does not become something akin to gambling. Below are five reasons why a structured innovation management approach is essential.

PDMA Innovation Management Structure 2012


5 reasons for a structured innovation management approach:

1. The weakest link determines performance

Innovation is a process that starts with idea generation and ends implementing and scaling the new offering. It is great to be really good at idea generation, but if you struggle with the implementation, then being good at idea generation is a waste of time and energy, as too few of these ideas get implemented. The weakest link in the innovation process determines your output. A structured approach ensures you are efficient and effective in all aspects of the innovation process.

2. Not urgent today, but important for tomorrow

Unless your firm is about to go under and innovation is your last resort, innovation is rarely urgent. Yet innovation is important. Without innovation few organizations are able to survive in the long term. Since more immediate matters typically consume our busy workday, innovation becomes something for Friday afternoon or next week. A structured approach to innovating ensures this important, yet not always urgent, task does not get postponed indefinitely until it's too late.

3. Incentives and rewards

Innovation is teamwork. We can all name numerous successful products, but who knows the names of their inventors? By the way, Steve Jobs did not create the iPhone or iTunes; employees of Apple did. Many of Apple's innovations failed, and very few became successful blockbuster products such as the iPhone or iTunes. Often, these failures were needed to realize the final success. For example, it took many failed versions of hand-held organizers for the Palm Pilot to become successful. A structured approach to innovation ensures lessons are learned from failures, and employees involved in innovation are rewarded appropriately for their efforts, for success as well as failure.

4. Improve!

Whether you are a high or low capital-intensive organization, innovation is an arduous, time-consuming and expensive process. It is therefore important that this process run as effectively and as efficiently as possible. A structured approach allows you to analyze where projects get stuck in unnecessary bureaucracy, and where additional resources are needed to remove bottlenecks.

5. Want to be the best?

In the past three surveys, the Product Development and Management Association’s (PDMA) best practice study shows that a structured approach separates the top from the average innovation performers.

If your organization produces goods or services in high volumes you are in a fortunate position, since most current practices are tailored to your needs. For you, a good place to start getting organized is the Product Development and Management Association.

Approach for professional service organizations

Bringing structure to the innovation process in professional service organizations is not easy. As NXP Research and Deloitte Belgium, to Children’s National Health System can attest. All are great organizations with a drive to innovate, yet management practices like stage-gating or portfolio management were insufficient to meet their innovation challenges.

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