To some extent, innovation does not differ much from archery. You have your quiver with your arrows by way of ideas, you have your shooting skills in the vein of creative and innovative skills and you finally achieve more or less success depending on the number of arrows that hit the target, that is, the number of ideas that are implemented successfully.
However, when it’s about innovation we often overlook some things that turn out automatic when we do archery. Things that we take for granted and that we don’t catch when innovating. Being aware of these obvious issues is critical for the success and sustainability of an innovation system. Fortunately, fulfilling them is very easy, just do the following: aim, shoot… and run!
What is the best way to hit the target? It is so obvious that often we don’t even see it… Have a target!
Most likely some of you are thinking “What nonsense, of course you must have a target!”. However, how many times do we get down to innovation without having a clear goal? And when I say clear I mean as concrete and specific as a bullseye. Think about doing archery, do you maybe shoot the arrows “over there”? Of course you don’t aim them at a nonspecific area but towards a specific bullseye, with its central circles. Moreover, it makes no sense talking about aiming if there is no target.
Of course, we can devote ourselves to shoot arrows in an intuitive way without pointing to anywhere in particular. Then, if we shoot a great amount of arrows, a few of them will maybe hit a profitable target (it depends on the circumstances of the company and the market). However, won’t we have many more chances to succeed if, from the first moment, we aim our arrows at the kind of goal that interests us?
Some people tend to think that innovation arrows are magical and find their own way. That’s not right. It is a question of volume of ideas or goals. The difference is in the percentage of success. What do you prefer?
You know your company, where the business opportunities are and which the keys to success are, so it can be said that this is your firing range. Set your specific targets there, perfectly quantified, and surprise yourself by checking how your success rate skyrockets.
Second obvious issue: You have to shoot! It’s not enough to know how important innovation is, or to mobilize people at an exciting event at your company. It’s not even enough having a good handful of ideas (the quiver of arrows). You should do something to make arrows go all the way from the bow to the target. As surprising as it may seem, just at this moment when the quiver of innovation has been filled with a lot of ideas, is when most of the companies that begin with innovation get blocked.
Omitting this subject is terrible, it’s true, but there is an explanation: very often the company doesn’t know what to do with that heap of ideas; they don’t know the process. If we take the uncertainty because of ignoring the concrete steps to be followed and we add the uncertainty of innovation, what we get is a situation sufficiently uncomfortable and confusing as to paralyze people (and therefore the company). Do dissipate this uncertainty by designing a process with concrete steps, that allows people to know where they are and makes them feel that they have a reliable map to go into the innovation adventure.
Therefore, make sure to design an agile and clear innovation system. From the moment that the innovation goals are identified, through the generation of ideas, until developing them and putting some ideas into action. Avoid redundancies and unnecessary meetings, quickly detect the stagnation and eliminate or surround the obstacles so that every minute and dollar allocated to innovation is spent to add value.
Unlike archery, where each archer has its own target, on innovation there are usually several companies aiming at the same target, the window of opportunity. Accordingly, it is not enough to hit the target but to hit it soon in order to exploit that advantage asap. All the windows of opportunity get closed sooner rather than later, so being able to arrive quickly can mean the difference between coming across an open or closed window.
Arriving sooner also means having more time to take advantage of the opportunity and strengthen your position. On the other hand, a poor time-to-market usually means that all the effort of people, time and money spent on innovation has not been useful for anything.
Once you have chosen your targets, don’t waste time: aim, shoot and run! And when you hit the target, run again to identify other windows of opportunity and set new targets towards which the ideas of your company will be shot.
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Juan Cano-Arribí is founder and CEO at Plantel, company specializing in affordable innovation tools. He is visiting professor at the innovation graduates school at Universidad de Valencia. He is an active tweep; follow him on twitter at @Pull_Innovation.