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.

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The last five yards – the really hard part

Innovation Project ExecutionIt seems so simple doesn’t it – “bringing final ideas to market”. So easy to say, yet it does seem so very hard to achieve.

Everything we should be aiming towards boils down to the judgement of a ‘successful execution’ or not. It is this last, hard five yards of all the work that went into something, which can make or break so much of the efforts that have gone into this emerging ‘commercial life’ of our new innovation activities.

We should regard the back-end of innovation as the rugged part

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The rugged final frontier of innovation – Execution.

I always smile when people talk about the ‘fuzzy’ front end of innovation, ‘fuzzy’ tells a story. I think we should name the back end of innovation as ‘rugged’ to tell an equally important story. This is the end where the ‘last five yards’ separate the winners from the losers. The race before then has been made up of often huge quantities of stamina, fortitude, planning, exploration and getting into that necessary innovation rhythm to get yourself within sight of the finishing line, the point when the product, service or business model has one final gasp and passes over that internal finishing line.

The critical passing-through and launch phase where the finished concept goes through that clear defining moment, out into judgement day, where we enter that hostile environment, the market place, sometimes to loud cheers, sometimes to defining silence.

Welcome to the real world of judgement where those experienced enough in frontier-ship  knows the terrain they are passing over, certainly not for the first time and can manage this again to have a further final successful outcome- better sales!

Hitching your wagons and moving out for the first time. Continue reading

The new extended innovation funnel

The ideas funnel has been with us a long time. We put our ideas into the funnel and then through a process of elimination out ‘pop’s’ finished products. Henry Chesbrough’s famous depiction of the Open Funnel has continued that concept, that ideas enter the more ‘open’ innovation process and go through a more ‘staged gate’ or equivalent process to emerge as the finished product or even spun-out- all well and good.

In the past few weeks the funnel has been constantly coming back in my life. It has been bugging me. Recently I was at a European Innovation Conference and we got into a roundtable discussion on managing ideas and up pop’s the fuzzy front end and the funnel and putting ideas through this. To be provocative I said “well ideas are actually in the middle of the innovation process” and we got into a significant debate on this and concluded that we all did not share a common language on this or understanding of what I was struggling to articulate.

So let me lay out my view. Firstly this was not as inspired as an insight I can  fully lay claim too as mine. I had read somewhere this very point, ideas lie more in the middle of the innovation process but just could not remember where I had read it- grey cells are my excuse.

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