Saturday, May 11, 2013

Using the navigation matrix in the innovation journey: from 8 steps to innovation

The title of our book “8 steps to innovation” can be misleading. It doesn’t advocate following steps 1 to 8 similar to a Do-It-Yourself kit to get a ready-made culture of innovation. Similarly, it is not meant to offer a basket of techniques to be used as per the taste of the user. It is more like a fault-diagnosis and service manual. It proposes an iterative approach involving diagnosis and corrective action to progress along the innovation journey. Let’s see how it works in this article.

In the diagnosis phase “8 steps” offers a 3x3 matrix to identify what problem you are trying to solve. It looks like this:

The two questions it asks are: (1) What to improve? and; (2) How to sustain the change? For the first question, you need to check whether your problem is primarily that of pipeline, velocity or batting average. Similarly, for the second question, you need to check if the problem you are trying to solve is a Rider problem (lack of direction) or an Elephant problem (lack of motivation) for one or more stakeholders. Elephant problem can be addressed by an activity appealing to the emotion and/or developing a structure/process that is easy to implement (shape the path). Now, let’s look at a concrete example depicted in the presentation below.

The situation was like this (Please see page 15 of the presentation). The innovation program was launched in December 2010 and within a month 40 ideas were received from 25 people. Management was supportive of the selected ideas and some of them moved forward. However, management felt that none of the ideas was “interesting enough”. It meant that none of them was promising to impact the business significantly. Was it an Elephant problem or a Rider problem? It was a Rider problem. People didn’t know which are the top problems facing the business.

One way to focus the creative energy of employees is to launch a challenge campaign. A first step in this direction is to create a challenge book (step-2). I facilitated a session of 15 managers / senior managers where a challenge book consisting of 20 business challenges was identified. We took the challenge book to the CEO who selected a challenge to be launched as a campaign. This time around 20 ideas came as a response. However, they were different from the previous ones in two respects. One, the quality of many of the ideas was much better. Detailed cost-benefit analysis was presented. Two, at least a few ideas involved cross-functional collaboration – say a supply chain executive teaming up with a sourcing executive etc. A cross-functional team led by a Vice President was formed to take the selected ideas forward.

The presentation depicts three more such examples involving different kinds of problems. Each example starts with a diagnosis of the situation, identification of one more steps as a response, a few experiments and finally an implementation. Monthly dashboard is a good trigger to start the diagnosis. 

Related article: If you want to know what the 8 steps are, please check out this presentation from my co-author Prof. Rishikesha Krishnan: 8-steps to innovation: An introduction.

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