On June 15th of this year, Nik Wallenda became the first person ever to walk across the roaring Niagra Falls on a 2-inch wire. After battling wind swells, and thick mist, Wallenda completed his walk crossing from the United States into Canada. He was greeted by a Canadian customs agent who asked, “What is the purpose of your trip sir?” Wallenda’s response: “To inspire people around the world to follow their dreams and never give up”. There are many possible roads to innovation. Successful innovation means defining your own road. Much like Nik Wallenda’s walk across Niagra Falls, some of the best innovations come from stepping outside your own comfort zone and balancing the many different facets of innovation. The formula for success in innovation is about finding the middle ground, walking the tightrope between risk and innovation; between ideation and value creation. The Innovation Balancing Act. Successfully managing the process of innovation ensures the outcome results in a superior return on investment (ROI). Risk/Innovation It’s safe to say that companies are not naturally inclined to try new approaches without clear evidence that those approaches are likely to work. Like many innovators, you may find yourself struggling to innovate in advance of an anticipated economic recovery, while still working to keep costs down in a decidedly uncertain business arena. To increase initiative and innovation, you have to encourage and even embrace failure. You must have a willingness to invest without ROI assurance (see Innovation is Creativity X Risk Taking). Keep in mind:
- Milton Hershey started three unsuccessful companies before Hershey’s Chocolate.
- Michael Jordan was told he was too short to play on his high school varsity basketball team.
- The Beatles were originally rejected by Decca Recording studios, who said “we don’t like their sound” and “they have no future in show business”.
- At age 30, Apple’s Board of Directors decided to take the business in a different direction, and Steve Jobs was fired from the company he created. Not only did Jobs go back to his former company, but he changed the market in an astounding way. Jobs claims that his career success and his strong relationship with his family are both results of his termination from Apple.
Are you creating the next Hershey’s or Apple? Ideation/Value Creation The key to optimizing sustainable Innovation programs is value creation. While the creation of the idea is important, the creation of value for the customer is equally paramount. Adding perceived value to a new product or service will drive ROI. The value proposition is the key to successful innovation. Customer value can be created through the actual value-added of the new product, once you find that delicate balance between cost, price and return. Balance is found, in part, by seeking stakeholder input and customer feedback during development of any innovation process (see Value Creation). Remember:
- A means to an end – Think of innovation as a process that uses intellectual capital to generate positive business results, new findings and as a result, even more innovation.
- Key Considerations – Remember to monitor start-up costs, speed to market, scale to volume and other metrics.
- Customer is king – develop an innovation with high perceived value and strong sales will follow.
- IP Protection – IP and Patent protection lock in your competitive advantage and support sales results and market share.
Robert Brands is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival,” with Martin Kleinman – published Spring 2010 by Wiley (www.robertsrulesofinnovation.com).