What’s Your Innovation Vision?
A common barrier to innovation is not having a clear definition or context for innovation and its meaning to the organization. Some companies only think of innovation as new inventions or transformational ideas. Others think of innovation narrowly in the context of product enhancement only. Setting an innovation vision means looking at initiatives across a portfolio of activities and defining the areas to explore and pursue.
Organizations should make investments across all horizons of innovation—core, adjacent, and transformational innovation. However, often the vision for innovation is not bold enough. Or is unbalanced across the horizons of innovation. Too many bets are placed in the more well-known or more easily measured areas of core innovation. If organizations aren’t deliberate about the context of innovation and where they are placing bets and resources, it’s easy to go off track.
Lack of a vision is most often driven by fear. Fear of what happens if something doesn’t work. Fear of the unknown. The early days of new ideas are a search process in an unfamiliar environment. Investor and founder of Y Combinator Paul Graham, said that “The paths that lead to new ideas tend to look unpromising. If they looked promising, other people would already have explored them.”
In other words, it’s a wonder that any innovations take place at all. Vision requires putting time, money, and resources towards an unknown and uncertain path that may or may not prove fruitful.
Since we can’t predict the future, an innovation vision serves as a hypothesis of what we think the future might be. The hypothesis can evolve and change over time, but it can provide the glasses for the vision. It helps guide where the organization should be investing time and resources. It allows companies to clarify ideas, projects, and initiatives to explore and fund first.
Above all, since companies can’t invest in every project or initiative, a clear innovation vision can guide the company and help direct finite resources. An innovation vision can also help head off political pet projects. It can limit nice-sounding presentations and help teams identify and pursue ideas in the organization’s sweet spot. Rather than random, off-target acts of innovation.
Do you agree? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also check out Innovation Obstacles: Treating Innovation as a Project, Uncertainty: Loving the Advantages of Change and Disruption, Engines of Innovation: Exploration, Engagement and Experimentation, and The Accelerator Seven: Seven Superpowers for todays innovator.
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