It was John’s first day on the job as VP of Product Development for a mid-sized technology company in San Jose, California. During an introductory meeting with his team members, John asked “Tell me about the company’s idea pipeline.” The room went silent. There was no idea pipeline.
John had recently left another technology company with a system for generating a steady flow of new ideas that enabled his team to keep the company’s products fresh and competitive. By the end of the meeting at the new company, John discovered that the company lacked any significant systems for identifying, developing, or protecting innovative ideas.
John knew from previous experience that, without a constant flow of new ideas, the company would lose customers as well as its most talented team members. John himself had left a previous employer because he wanted to work in an environment that encouraged and rewarded innovation. The lack of an idea pipeline was a serious concern.
John understood that losing his team’s brightest minds would stall the idea pipeline and allow the company’s competitors to create better products and steal the company’s customers. He saw the threat that was looming if the company didn’t implement an innovation strategy to keep the best team members who create innovative ideas and industry-leading products. John knew he had to act fast.
John reached out to me for help implementing systems that would create an idea pipeline like he had at his previous company. Keep reading to find out how we solved this problem.
A well-defined Innovation Strategy has three critical components (the 3 Ps of Innovation): Products, People, and Protection.
Think of your Innovation Strategy as a 3-legged stool. Products, People, and Protection represent the three legs. If any component is missing, the stool will fail. But, a properly configured Innovation Strategy provides a sturdy foundation for growing your company and generates a steady flow of creative ideas.
Haphazard Innovation Doesn’t Work
If your company has a haphazard approach to innovation, one of your competitors may develop the next “must have” product in your market and steal your customers. By “haphazard”, I mean you don’t have a system or Innovation Strategy to identify, develop, and protect innovative ideas that support your company’s growth. Instead, your approach to innovation is random – new ideas appear occasionally when they “pop” into someone’s head. This is not a good strategy.
Don’t build the foundation of your business on haphazard and accidental innovation.
A Well-Defined Innovation Strategy Does Work
During the past 25 years, I have worked with many technology companies that flourish when they implement a well-defined Innovation Strategy. These companies use a systematic approach to innovation that creates a culture of innovative thinking throughout the organization.
Each of the three critical components of a successful Innovation Strategy (Products, People, and Protection) are discussed below. I’ve also included a case study that demonstrates the initial development of an Innovation Strategy.
“According to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP), almost 80% of the world’s most innovative companies have a well-defined and thought-through innovation strategy.” ~ Fortune Magazine
An Innovation Strategy must focus on the development of new products and the enhancement of existing products. You can accomplish this by implementing systems that address gaps in the marketplace, customer feedback, and problems with your current products. Executing the proper systems can ignite a creative fire within your organization that produces a constant stream of new ideas. This gives you the luxury of selecting among many profitable ideas and hand-picking the very best ideas that will give you a competitive advantage in your industry.
Your Innovation Strategy should include people throughout your organization. Many technology companies rely solely on a few “rocket scientists” to develop innovations. Although these brilliant people are important to your innovation plan, you can have much greater success by involving a larger part of your team.
Everyone has unique experiences and specialized knowledge when it comes to creating new ideas. And, people in different departments of your organization have different interactions with customers and competitors.
For example, your customer service representatives have direct contact with customers every day and can help identify areas for product improvement. When you involve a cross-section of the people throughout your organization, your Innovation Strategy develops a broader range of ideas that have a larger impact on your company growth.
If you are just starting to create your Innovation Strategy, attempting to launch a company-wide innovation program may disrupt the day-to-day operation of the business. Your employees are already overloaded, so a large innovation program can be met with resistance.
In this situation, you can gradually expand your Innovation Strategy using small innovation groups that don’t upset the daily operations of your business. I discuss an example small innovation group in the case study below.
It’s frustrating when I see companies spend valuable resources to create innovative ideas, but donate those ideas to their competitors because they didn’t protect the ideas. So, instead of having a competitive advantage, these companies failed to protect critical innovations and opened the door for competitors to copy the ideas.
Every technology company develops intellectual property that must be protected. This goes beyond just filing patent applications. Proper protection of your innovations includes using appropriate agreements, understanding critical points where intellectual property protection should be considered, and using the appropriate forms of protection.
For more than 25 years, I have worked as an Intellectual Property Attorney and Innovation Strategist. During that time, I have helped companies of all sizes identify, develop, and protect innovative ideas.
When working with John’s company in San Jose, California, I helped implement an Innovation Strategy that included the creation of small innovation group. This group had six members from different parts of the company – sales, product development, customer service, marketing, production, and the executive group. The group started by identifying several problems with the company’s existing products as well as a gap in the marketplace.
Over the course of several weeks, the innovation group developed solutions to several of the identified problems. Two of the group’s solutions were successfully implemented by the company. One solution created a new product feature that many customers had been asking for. The second solution resulted in a new product that filled a gap in the market.
The two innovations initiated by the group increased the company’s revenue and generated some positive media coverage of the new product. This successful result started with a diverse group of People who developed innovations that improved the company’s Products. The novel features of the products were Protected to provide a strong competitive edge.
Since the first group was successful, we slowly added more groups and built an Innovation Strategy that created an ever-increasing number of valuable ideas. John was excited to see the idea pipeline start producing results.
Need Help with Your Innovation Strategy?
If you don’t have an Innovation Strategy, or you want to expand your existing strategy, I encourage you to apply for a complimentary Innovation Strategy Session. During this session, we will review your current Innovation Strategy, explore your innovation goals and challenges, and discuss how I can help you create a steady stream of innovative ideas. And, you will walk away from the call with at least 2 or 3 new ideas to grow your business.