Determined Innovators Face Risk to Reap Rewards

Robert SchmidtEveryone wants an advantage.

Relative to their competitors, all businesses want to be seen by customers as the go-to provider.

My favorite race car driver and boyhood hero the late Mark Donohue was labeled as always having an “Unfair Advantage” by his competitors. However, if you read Donohue’s autobiography, it becomes clear that he was a member of a very innovative Penske team. they were always conceiving ways to go faster, testing them on the track and at times stretching the boundaries of the rules book. But there was also an underlying theme of hard work. They outworked most everyone else. Sweat equity some might call it.

In industry, success thru innovation is the same. Coming up with innovative ideas is hard work, getting them successfully to market is difficult and always risky.

The more innovative the product, the larger the uncertainty of success—but usually the higher the payoff. Managing this risk while fostering an atmosphere of innovation is a tricky balance to achieve.

Many companies have a formal process to achieve this balance. But sometimes these processes end up creating barriers that squelch innovation by requiring too much to be known at the early stages of development. Really innovative ideas are almost always those that we know the least about at the beginning.

Innovation Tip: Consider adapting a tried and true principle introduced by W. Edwards Deming to help overcome the early innovation jitters: the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle. Assign a point person or small team to address key concerns and report each week.This lowers anxiety and keeps innovation moving.

To learn more, contact Robert Schmidt, voice: 216.432.5346.

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