Warm and Fuzzy at the Front End of Innovation

Warm and fuzzy inside

Perhaps I have fallen into the very trap I have campaigned about in the past, in recognizing and resolving the disappointing results we achieve from all the work we put into the front end of innovation. The “warm and fuzzy” front end of innovation can make us all a little grumpy.

Let me explain. I recently wrote out a newsletter – termed a thought or two – to my innovation network. This network is split between the advisers and consultants delivering into clients and the clients themselves, that I have a connections into that have built over the years. These are mostly through knowing them, working with them, exchanging or simply connecting in LinkedIn. The subject was the changes occurring at the front end of innovation.

My argument was the results we have obtained from a disconnected set of front end activities was poorer than they should be, and this needs changing. I feel there is a real shift potential happening today through connecting technology and connected solutions to ‘transform’ this front end. My feeling is the front end is often “warm and fuzzy” and it needs to be radically redesigned. I wrote about “hearing all the voices of ideas at the front end and the “two distinct parts of the innovation funnel” building from my original post “the new extended innovation funnel“, written in 2011.

Well I delivered the “warm” in this latest “heads up newsletter” and yes I received back some nice compliments on my thinking, as “nicely put”,”completely agree” “confirmed my thinking for a several years”, one I loved “idea driven innovation does not work.”

I even had a few coming back fairly strongly in delivering ‘grief’ around: “you seem to be telling only half the story” or “did you pay attention to what I have said before” or finally even one suggesting their solution, presented over many years, was really the one to answer my piece, not  provide even more new ones.

So far these comments have come from those advising into clients, not (potential) clients themselves, that are clearly far to busy managing the fragmented front end they are responsible for. I often find it takes time to percolate down breaking those different ideas into organizations, it often tends to be a “wait and see” or what is best practice on this? Then they get ‘caught out’ and chase for instant answers on this or that. I often wonder why that is so? No prizes being offered!

So, some ‘grief’, some compliments, and I ended up feeling ‘warm’ but a little chastened, as I had failed in clearly raising the level of curiosity intended in my mail out for a greater, deeper engagement that I was attempting. A view to prompt the thinking about the front end differently, perhaps I left this maybe far too “fuzzy” for many and not with a clear enough a value statement to build from by engaging me more on a direct, more consultative basis. Partly my intention as I’ll explain here.

Moving from warm and fuzzy into bubbling to the surface.

Clearly in the ‘heads up’ newsletter I was not as specific as I should have been, it got a little buried in the build up, the context setting. So I need to spell out a little more on that I am seeing / appreciating a greater clustering of software solutions that feed into and out of the idea management process and I’ll start this a little more here.

The ‘thing’ that is new is the technology is beginning to really link all this external and internally generated knowledge or insights, and this is coming from software solutions. I am not claiming ideas from outside, roadmapping, technology search, idea relating are new in themselves, it just has not been CONNECTED as it can be now – that is the new part.

That inflow and outflows makes it more dynamic, structured and capable of getting ideas that have potentially greater impact and relationship – relationship to people engagement, to criteria set or defined and alignment into the goals / objectives of the organization with its innovation.

Providing the ‘heads up’ newsletter here. It builds a common story on our failing at the front end of innovation

So let me provide the newsletter here also, it still does build the argument for change even if it seems “warm and fuzzy” for a number of people within my network. The software solutions I allude too, well those clients interested or curious enough can contact me. The consultants that want to know, well they will equally find out soon enough.

So here is the newsletter, I will be explaining the impact and change potential that can be made in a future post.

The front end of innovation is undergoing considerable change, is it for you?

Ideas need to be even more connected both within the organization and outside coming in. Why? With all the multiple forces at work that seem to be challenging and transforming so much in this age of increasing disruption, we are requiring a bolder set of innovation solutions than ever before.

The need to see beyond incremental products as the ‘safe’ solution is being questioned today, ever-more so and that is driving the big shift at this front end. Innovation needs to deliver far more.

The value of ideas is not valuable unless connected.

We are long past “ideas for ideas sake” although I’m still told I’m very wrong here with all the continued calls to create those ideation ‘hotspots’ as that seems to engage those within organizations or so many think.

How mistakenly wrong this call for simply ideas really is. Failure remains still as high as, or even higher, than ever where precious resources get consistently side-tracked. Most of this “cause and effect” you can point towards as being purely internally created, in generating the innovation without that real market awareness or client understanding. Broader engagement in innovation creation is presently hampered by this narrow view. One solution is that we need to deepen the front end of understanding and I believe solutions are in plain sight.

Having an Idea Management system, as a stand-alone, is fine for incremental innovation but if your organization is really looking for industry spanning outcomes that yield radical, more distinctive and sometimes disruptive innovation, this does require a greater commitment well beyond aspects of open innovation, selective crowd-sourcing or hackathons. It needs greater front end connection than just relying on purely internally generated ideas, ones that seem so often provided to fit specific and narrow agenda’s. Many innovations emerging from this internal orientation are lacking real market and customer awareness.

Resources within innovation are often highly constrained and can get so easily distracted due to poor scoping or disciplines or chasing idea rainbows. We have so much wasted effort, demoralizing and counter-productive inputs and outputs generating poor final outcomes that don’t fit the current needs of customers, or transform the landscape sufficiently by picking up all the signals that are all around us.

There is a real need to challenge what we have been doing and re-evaluate it. We have come a good way towards more strategic innovation, less operational necessity as this point of time.

The big shift potential at the front end of innovation

The big change in my mind is that organizations need to shift from idea generation being simply generated from inside the organization as the starting point. For me the shift to trends and market signals coming into the organization to kick-start the internal generation, to connect the dots, develop far more cross-industry awareness, this is becoming the real and current ‘buzz’ and enabler to getting closer to finding innovation, that can offer a higher impact and return.

It is within the clustering of software solutions around idea management that changes the dynamics, enables greater engagement, higher quality and relevant inputs and provides the outcomes to be more structured and impactful.

Coming from the outside-in offers so much fresh stimulus yet it is recognizing those signals as value is become the innovating challenge, translating these into innovation deliverables.

How do you organize around all the changes that are coming from cross-industry awareness, determining the trends that taking place before our very eyes as the potential dots that might connect with the internal thinking? Yet we remain stubbornly blind to them while we conduct internal idea generation as our starting point and then go outside. We need to rethink the front end totally differently.

Today we need outside-in first in organized, structured ways, before we internally generate and then either go back outside or develop from within. A greater need for engagement and enablement requires different solutions at this front end.

We need to open up to what is going on all around us, daily and allow that ‘greater’ external thinking in prior to idea management, so we can relate the ‘known’ from within, with the becoming-known or the “we were unaware,” the unknowns, from outside to connect the unconnected for some dramatically different innovation outcomes.

Are you changing your front end of innovation?

You should be redesigning your front end radically differently from today. Why don’t you talk to me on exploring this shift taking place, before your very eyes, a little more to relate or clarify these changes? The front end is shifting, are you making plans? You should be. I am an email or phone call away.

In summary here within this post.

I got some grief, I got some compliments on raising the difficulties that we still struggle with, at this front end of innovation, one or two got annoyed that I was not providing them the solutions I was alluding too.

Did I fail in communicating a growing shift at the front end of innovation – no!. Sure I’m going to gift wrap the whole story am I not? Yeah right! I need to live and through my research, and work through Agility Innovation Specialists I’m around to provide my innovation expertise and service in my advocacy practice.

I come back to a lovely comment made by a good friend and inspiration thinker I knew in Singapore, Dilip Mukerjea and his brain dancing thinking:  If you wish to have value for money would you give money for value?

So there is a shift. Connecting the front end through software that integrates the inside, the outside, the capturing process, the translating process, the registering and the plotting going forward process I think is different, radically different through its connecting possibilities. If we can replace more of the ‘fuzzy’ at the front end that it is beyond the simple fact that the front end is all about needs, insights, different perspectives, it is about breaking down and connecting up all the silo’s that have held the front end up, we might achieve a greater connection and engagement, that can deliver better results.

I believe is absolutely necessary for innovation to fulfill its promise and be more central to our growth plans within organizations and we, it seems are getting closer, in terms of creating an integrated end2end innovation system as something that is finally beckoning, at least at the front end initially!

That is the ‘breaking’ story – warm and fuzzy but connecting the front end of innovation. More will come soon.



One thought on “Warm and Fuzzy at the Front End of Innovation

  1. How about making the innovation process much easier by using “social” crowd sourcing platform? Such effective innovation management platform is http://qmarkets.net for instance, which was awarded winning sofware by info tech, forrester, etc.


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