Keeping Your Innovation Momentum

At some point in your journey to drive innovation, you’ll want to take a deep breath and ask – what happened here? What have we achieved? And, what do we need to do now to keep the momentum?

Momentum is critical. I’ve seen too many innovation programs get off to a fast start only to fizzle out later. People go back to their old ways, or they move on to the next new “shiny object” – some other big bang initiative.

Here’s some advice on how to maintain your momentum.

First, understand what progress you’ve made from where you started? It’s probably time to re-do the innovation audit that you did at the start of the program. If you can show how your employees perceive the progress, you have a compelling argument to keep the momentum going.

Next, conduct a post mortem on the failed activities. You’ll likely learn more from the failures than the successes. Despite the pain, you should thoroughly examine the “dead bodies” to understand what happened.  What stimulated the initiative? What were our assumptions going in? Did we have the right team in place?

Next, you need to remind everyone why innovation is an imperative – the so called Burning Platform. What’s happening in your business over the next 12 to 18 months?  Is it growing? Contracting? What changes do you anticipate in your competitive position?  Then use this information to gain alignment for continuing the innovation initiative.

Not only must you re-energize the innovation culture at your company, but you also have to create the support systems to make it stick. Here are some ideas.

Develop a way to track and manage ideas generated from innovation workshops. It doesn’t have to be an expensive system; just something to document ideas. This will help you put metrics around innovation. You’ll be able to measure the inputs to innovation – training, workshops, and so on – as well as the outputs – ideas, patents, etc.

Next, you must emphasize skill building. People lose their innovation skills unless they use them often or get refresher training. On going training tells people you’re committed to this. A great way to keep training alive is to develop your own internal innovation trainers. These people can act as coaches for teams that want to pursue innovation aggressively.

Finally, look for ways to extend innovation beyond the marketing function.

You want to link innovation to every other function and process in the company, including financial, operational, and technical.

That means you need to align with your peers, gain their trust, and share the credit for keeping the innovation momentum going.