A Great Innovation Strategy

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on December 07, 2009 in: Branding, Business - Plain & Simple

imagesInnovation comes in many forms. Sometimes it is developing something brand new and bringing it to market. Sometimes it is putting your unique twist on an existing product to make it more suitable for your target market. And sometimes innovation is simply trying something new in your business that you haven’t done before… even if it’s not an entirely new concept.

There are lots of innovation opportunities that we face everyday, but acting on them can scare people off. Entrepreneurs might wonder “What if I fail?” The answer to that question is: “Great!”

Innovation and failure are both important
In his blog, For Better Innovation – Fail Often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap, business venture capitalist, Jim Estill writes about the three things that every entrepreneur needs to do when they fail.

Estill goes on to explain what he means. In being willing to fail often, businesses are actually innovating more frequently and they are likely to succeed more often than a business that only wants home runs and barely does any innovating at all. Fail fast and fail cheap are his second and third points and he asserts that failing fast and cheap allow for more rapid (and less costly) innovation to occur.

That’s brilliant. I like it because it first recognizes that people don’t succeed 100% of the time and, in saying that, it also admits that people probably shouldn’t succeed 100% of the time. (It’s the old adage that says if you are achieving 100% of your goals, you aren’t setting high enough goals).

How you can make sure that you fail often, fail fast, and fail cheap
First, make sure that you are building innovation time into your schedule. Start by setting aside some time each week and keep a running list of problems or challenges that you want to work on.

Second, decide how much time you can spend on innovation before you make a go/no-go decision. A day? A week? A month? It might depend on what the ultimate pay-off is at the end. (If it will earn you millions then you might give yourself more time than if it is simply an innovation that can save you a couple minutes a day).

Third, decide how much money you are willing to invest. Don’t try to bootstrap every innovation without spending a cent. Instead, at the beginning of the year, set aside a percentage of your revenue as research and development money and decide on the parameters of the project that will determine where you will spend your money. For example, you may want to spend money on projects that will have a direct bottom-line impact to your business or that you are only willing to spend up to 25% of your R&D budget on any single project.

Jim Estill is right: Entrepreneurs should adopt the willingness and drive to fail often, fail fast, and fail cheap and when they do they will see far greater success because of it.

Happy blogging!

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