Does that sound familiar to you? The R&D department proudly presents the newest innovative product ever. The management is very enthusiastic about it. The production department had already heard some rumors and the sales department, which has been expecting this particular product for “years”, is completely surprised. Ok, this might be exaggerated, but just remember the launch of the CD. And this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Invention vs. Innovation
Too often people tend to look at the invention, the functional improvement of product items (see also “How to succeed in innovation – part 1”). But there are a lot of aspects to be done upfront to start launching a product, up to the point of establishing new sales channels.
Only if the idea sells, the invention will turn into an innovation. How come that really good and new ideas and products are developed, but fail when getting launched? My impression is that people believe that innovation is linked with the R&D department only. Research and development is one of the important ones, no doubt about that, but not the only one. Managing market requirements, technical specifications, new procurement requirements, production possibilities and market launches are necessary and far more than anybody in R&D would be able to provide. As a result, the prototype lies on the table and the question is how to launch and sell it now. This can be avoided.
A detailed process plan is key
I have gained very good experience with one common process plan, which en detail defines which steps need to be taken. The more detailed the plan is, the more the chances for a successful launch increase. Some people may criticize that this would be far too time consuming and bureaucratic. The time for real development would be reduced too much. From my point of view this is just an excuse as the human brain is not able to check and pop down 600 to 800 process steps within a second, considering the consequences and alternatives.
So is that a vote for introducing “bureaucracy” using the process plan? Not at all!
When you travel on an airplane, you assume that, before take off, the pilot went through his checklist from A-Z. Structured and carefully; and without a shortcut, as he usually has a good feeling regarding XYZ.
Innovation projects are similar. You need a checklist or otherwise you crash before the product lands on the market.
Or would you like to have a pilot, who shortly before landing recognizes that the plane runs out of fuel? In other words, such a project manager is not able to run innovation projects.