How are you going to find the means to develop the most promising innovation ideas? One good way is to kill off the weaker projects which are currently absorbing precious resources. Many organisations find this difficult to do. Consequently the new creative ideas they generate are always short of money and manpower.
The word decide comes from the same root as the words homicide, infanticide and regicide. They are all based on the Latin verb caedere – to kill, to strike, to cut to pieces. So when we decide on one option we must kill others.
Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple’s British Design Chief believes that the company deserves credit for its willingness to reject ideas and devices. The “hallmark” of Apple products is “real care”, he said. “If we’re honest about wanting to make the best possible products that we can, that genuinely means saying no because we don’t believe it’s good enough.” He recently admitted that Apple nearly axed the iPhone because of perceived design flaws. You can imagine how many other interesting projects were killed in order to produce the select number of Apple’s real winners.
The problem is that once an interesting project starts it can be very hard to stop. People become committed to it and are reluctant to ‘waste the effort we have already put in.’ That is why a gating process is so important and realistic criteria have to be enforced. Many companies find this difficult. They lack the processes. They do not know exactly what resources they have deployed and the project managers cling to failing or marginal projects.
Egos, empires and politics muddy the waters. Projects which are interesting and have some potential benefit keep going because of the resources that have already been invested. It is the ‘we can’t stop now’ syndrome. But the key question is this – is this the best use of these resources right now? Although the project may be beneficial, if it is blocking the implementation of a project with a significantly higher payback then it should stop. You have to be ruthless in weeding out the moderate plants so that the brilliant specimens can flourish.
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Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.