One Success Out of Seven Ideas is Ridiculous

One Success Out of Seven Ideas is Ridiculous!Suppose you are a professional soccer player, chosen to kick the penalties for your team. And you scored only one out of seven penalties. Would you be satisfied? How long do you think your trainer and fellow players let you take penalties? They would probably kick you out of the team after the second failure in a row.

Innovation Guru Robert G. Cooper confirms in the 2011 edition of ‘Winning at new Products’ again that only one out of seven new product ideas is really a success in the market. For every seven new product ideas, about four enter development, 1.5 are launched, and only one succeeds. So only one out of seven official innovation projects reaches ‘the net’. The rest has been stopped, failed or are forever stuck in the back end of the innovation funnel. So, if one out of seven penalties is unacceptable in professional soccer, can we as innovators accept an effectiveness rate of one out of seven?

And it becomes even worse. The innovativeness of new products and services that do reach the market is becoming less and less. New-to-the-world products, the first in their kind and creating an entirely new market, represents only ten percent of all new products. And research shows this percentage is even shrinking (Cooper, 2011).

What really amazes me is that a lot of managers, practitioners and researchers seem to accept a one out of seven effectiveness rate. Wake up, innovators! It all starts by not accepting that this is normal.

Of course every one of us is optimising his or her methods and best practices. Actually there is a lot going on in innovation at the moment. Taking inventory of all the latest developments I came up with an impressive fifteen striking developments in Innovation. First of all there is ‘Sustainable Innovation’ which was the conference theme of ISPIM in Hamburg in 2011. ‘Business Model Innovation’ is a second development, being very popular in creating innovative services and web based concepts.‘Service innovation’ is a hot topic, especially in more western type economies where seventy-five percent of the people is working in services. Closely related is the ‘Design Thinking’ trend, especially with new books on service design thinking. ‘Collaborative Innovation’ is another development, which has also connections with ‘Participatory Innovation’,‘Social Innovation’ and ‘Employee Driven Innovation’. And some companies are exploring the trend of ‘Insourcing Innovation’ where on the other hand others are pursuing ‘Outsourcing Innovation’. Marketers are sponsors of what is being called ‘Brand Driven Innovation’. Innovation as result of the interaction among an ecology of actors is labelled as‘Innovation Ecosystems’.Challenge Driven Innovation’ is also one of the new kids on the block, as is ‘Agile Innovation’ to speed up the process. Last but not least there is ‘Frugal Innovation’ which focuses on the needs of the bottom of the pyramid as a starting point.

But will these developments lead to a drastic increase in our rate of innovation effectiveness? I doubt it. Of course, we should not stop optimizing innovation. And at the same time we should be looking out for disruptive ways to increase effectiveness. My real insight how to create a surge in effectiveness came to me reading the biography of Steve Jobs. I was inspired again, by the famous words of the historical Apple campaign of 1997: Think Different.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Thinking differently should be a core competence of most of us managers, innovators and researchers. But why then have we not used this capacity to think of disruptive concepts to increase innovation effectiveness? I guess we have become too much part of the system itself. We are like fish, which are the last ones to discover they’re swimming in water.

So we should look for the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. They are the last ones to read Innovation Management or visit innovation conferences. They would hate them, probably! So we should be looking out for them. We should go beyond our borders ourselves. To observe and learn new insights, postponing our judgement. So go out there and find new innovation rebels in the style of George Best, Johan Cruyff, Paul Gascoigne, Eric Cantona or Maradonna, who will be great penalty kickers.

image credit: directresp.
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Gijs van WulfenGijs van Wulfen leads ideation processes and is the founder of the FORTH innovation method. He is the author of Creating Innovative Products & Services, published by Gower.

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6 Responses to One Success Out of Seven Ideas is Ridiculous

  1. Matt Reedy says:

    Gijs, a thought-provoking article, thank you for posting it. However, I disagree with your analogy to innovation of kicking soccer penalty kicks. Whereas kicking penalty shots is a repetitive, learned behavior, to me true innovation is about doing things that haven’t been done before, either inside or outside the organization. I come from the entrepreneurial world, where in fact typically only 1 out of 10 startups succeed, much worse than the 1 out of 7 you reference. Disruptive and breakthrough innovation fit the same mold – when we are truly innovating, we are breaking new ground, we are experimenting and learning as we go. In this environment, there are bound to be “failures” in the sense that we sometimes learn enough to tell us that an approach is not going to work in the market. My instinct says that 1 out of 7 successes in truly disruptive innovation is actually good news.

    • Mara says:

      The failure rate of itavonnions is not an issue but the speed at which failure is recognized, accepted and dealt with (be it abandon or modify) is. Yes, those who have the guts to push limits ultimately are more sucessful innovators because they are creative and brutally honest. So let’s be unafraid to fail 99 of 100 times if needed but be brave enough let go and change course.

  2. Dear Matt,

    Of course my article is thought provoking. And you are absolutely right on taking penalties. I find it amazing though that so much innovators are willing to accept these very low success rates. Join me in my quest to improve the effectiveness of the innovation approach for disruptive innovations. This starts by saying that one out of seven is ridiculous :-)

  3. Alex W says:

    The failure rate of innovations is not an issue but the speed at which failure is recognized, accepted and dealt with (be it abandon or modify) is.

    Yes, those who have the guts to push limits ultimately are more sucessful innovators because they are creative and brutally honest.

    So let’s be unafraid to fail 99 of 100 times if needed but be brave enough let go and change course.

  4. Dear Alex,

    Thanks for your comment. yes: it’s the speed at which failure is recognized. Thanks for highlighting this. For every seven new products ideas, about 4 enter development, 1,5 are launched, and only one succeeds. So less than 50% of the products worked on in R&D are launched.

    I agree we have to be brave. On the other hand: in big corporations you only get one or two chances. If you fail your vice-president will lose faith in you and you get on a side-track. Failures are not common accepted in businesses. They are the least discussed. While we can learn so much out of them.

    Thanks for commenting.
    Gijs

  5. Good morning, Gijs!

    What if George Best, Johan Cruyff, Paul Gascoigne, Eric Cantona, Leo Messi or Maradonna would have been fired after their second miss while training during the week? They would never have been able to achieve such effectiveness on kicking penalties while playing the weekend match. Training (or failing) it’s vital to learn how to not fail… or even to know how to fail in order to learn something during the process.

    I have developed my experience in the internet sector and it’s important to use some testing, polls, a/b testing, analysis, annoy small groups of users (we could name it all “training”) before launching a definitive product.

    Moreover, there isn’t (or shouldn’t be) only ONE person developing an innovation. Some more eyes should be taking a look and giving advise. George Best, Johan Cruyff, Paul Gascoigne, Eric Cantona, Leo Messi or Maradonna were/are completely alone when kicking a penalty but surrounded by trainers during the week. There should be more people involved in an innovation process.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    D.

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