ClinicianEngineerLawyerManaging for organizingProfessional

A good beginning makes a good ending

The best option to predict the success of an innovation project is a crystal ball that allows you to see the future. In absence of such a ball, the second-best option is making the start of your innovation project count. A good beginning makes a good ending – that is certainly true for innovation projects!

Predicting success

The more creative an idea, the more difficult to predict its future performance. In a research study about circus acts,  creators were more accurate than managers at forecasting others’ novel ideas. A note of caution is in place, because creators overvalued their own ideas. The conclusion of these researchers; as a domain expert you may have a slight advantage over managers when it comes to predicting winning ideas other than your own.

However, the accuracy of predicting successes is still about as accurate as flipping a coin. Even the best angel investors and venture capitalists, who make such forecasts as a living, have a hit rate of about 10%.

Making your project successful

While it is difficult to predict success, there is a lot you can do at the start of a project to enhance your chances of a successful outcome.

Research suggests that an early reduction of market and technical uncertainty and a draft initial planning prior to development have a positive impact on the success of new product development projects. As much as 17% of the variance of the efficiency and 24% of the variance of the effectiveness could be explained by the difference in the efforts made to reduce these uncertainties early. Thus, a good beginning makes a difference and is an important driver of innovation project success.

What to avoid

Where can it go wrong at the start of a project? A few issues that stand out:

  • “Not asking the right questions that help frame/guide the design and scope of initial research and investigations.
  • An inability to organize and make sense of massive qualitative and quantitative insights, and apply them to opportunities mapping.
  • Creating bridges between innovative ideas and current business models, leading to the abrupt cancellation of projects in midstream because they don’t “match the company’s business strategy.”
  • Not giving “top-priority” innovation projects the required attention because there is no senior executive sponsor or because key people are “too busy” to spend the necessary time working on them.
  • Failing to articulate how innovative ideas can create economic value and how this value can be captured, as well as failing to determine the opportunity cost of these innovations.”

A good beginning makes a good ending

A good beginning makes a good ending is thus certainly true for innovation projects.

From the start-up community, we know what a good beginning entails. Customer discovery is the best way to de-risk market uncertainties. A minimum viable product is the best way to de-risk uncertainties related to the technology and solution itself.

For innovators that operate within the walls of an existing organization, customer discovery is not the same, there is an important additional aspect that needs to be taken into account: Organizational uncertainties.  Those uncertainties must be addressed adequately from the start too.

Innovation is therefore much more about addressing uncertainties than about creativity. And it requires diligent execution and a solid innovation process to start and finish strong.