10 tips and 4 remedies to create a framework for rapid innovation

“Developing products in half the time” (1992) is a great book to build rapid innovation framework. Preston G. Smith and Donald G.Reinertsen have selected 10 areas in which managers can help shorten the cycle time for new products and projects.

Based on this prime work, I have crafted a few add-on:

  1. Adapt the processes
    Adjust the development process according to the speed you’re aiming at: speed can be a more important objective than managing the technical risk. Avoid the “one size fits all” concept, develop concurrent engineering or “rugby approach”, with flexible modules and overlapping activities.
  2. Buy time
    Comparing economic spending with time gained may drive you to speed up the ideation: development expenses have often much less impact on product profitability than design delay.
  3. Master the complexity
    “Keep it simple … and sexy” with an incremental approach.  Prototype early and often: “fail often, fail early, fail cheap” is the rapid prototyping credoo, as well as  “don’t fail fast , learn fast.
  4. Professionalize the pre-development stage
    Pre-development aims at assessing the market opportunity, refining customer target, developing a strong and sustainable, competitive advantage, selecting technologies, and evaluating resources, in consistency with company’s strategy. It’s vital for the next phase: fuzzy visions produce fuzzy results; it initiates the  necessary creative tension and engage innovation team in clear way.  Don’t look at it in spare time, assign people at full or half-time to reach a certain decision by a definite date.
  5. Staff projects appropriately to complete them faster
    A 5 to 10 people team full time is optimum. Rather than under staffing a  large number of projects, take half of them, double the staff, and complete them in half the time.
  6. Work with open-minded experts
    Good products rely on broad view. Compose innovation team with T-shaped people, with strong  expertise in their field (vertical bar of the T), and ability to understand and synchronize with other team members issues (horizontal bar of the T).
  7. Let the team manage the team
    Give permission to the team to be “a kind of start-up company- it takes initiative and risk and develops an independant agenda”; a self-organizing team exhibits three conditions: autonomy, self-transcendance, and cross-fertilization. Headquarter’s involvement should be limited to providing guidance, money, and moral support at the outset.
  8. Constantly work on reducing risks
    Limit “innovation uncertainties“. Manage market risks as well as technical risks.
  9. Manage an innovation pipeline and develop a reserve
    Invent off-line in a separately scheduled program that is tightly integrated with your market: invention track will be more loosely scheduled compared to the product development track. Maintain a storehouse of developing technologies,  leverage on open innovation to feed your pipeline. Unplanned new product ideas will arise unexpectedly: leave some unused capacity for the really new projects.
  10. Be mindful of the future
    Once the innovation is completed, learn from the experience to feed the new product developments with improved practices.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter has analyzed how innovation can fail in “Innovation: the classic traps (Nov 2006)“, from which she has drafted 4 remedies: widening the search for new ideas, loosening overly tight controls and rigid structures, forging better connections between innovators and mainstream operations, and cultivating communication and collaboration skills.

Though the 4 remedies she has imagined are not focused on rapid innovation, they echo somehow the above areas, especially when it comes to bring back to the core company what has been created by the autonomous team. “Tighten the human connections between those pursuing innovation efforts and others throughout the rest of the business, develop external communication from the innovation team, encourage mutual respect, formal meetings and informal conversations, will help to maximize effective reintegration of innovations that become new businesses”.

Otherwise, without engagement from the core co, customers will not be reached the most powerfully, and innovation might be stuck as an invention.


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