3 Success Factors for Growing through Innovation

Photo by Alfonso Salgueiro

Photo by Alfonso Salgueiro

Successfully achieving growth through innovation (versus growth through incremental progression of the core business) requires the talents of a symphony conductor. There are a dizzying number of things to keep track of, risks to mitigate, individual talents to harmonize. However, from our experience in helping large organizations reach for growth through innovative new services, there are a handful (perhaps two handfuls) of factors that correlate with successful realization of growth.

I won’t list all of them now rather I wanted to focus on three recurring elements to the success of the growth projects we find ourselves working on right now, in the hopes that they might ring true for you.  Perhaps this will even help you find your way to real growth.

Our belief is that in the pursuit of truly breakthrough innovation you must have:

  1. A vision of the future – The company has to have an understanding of what the future might look like, and it must be a future in which the company might be deemed irrelevant (if you are fully deductive—that is predicting the future based entirely upon the past—then you’ll always appear relevant). It’s always guesswork, but it’s essential guesswork, and can be done in an “educated” way. Start with a deep empathic look at your customers—past, present and future—and combine with an understanding of key technology and regulatory trends and the competitive landscape, new as well as established.
  2. Senior management involvement – Growth initiatives are risky, and risks are naturally minimized in functional businesses. However, senior management is powerful enough to hold the organizational antibodies at bay and give growth projects time to prove their worth. Breakthrough innovation doesn’t look like anything that has come before it, that’s why it’s breakthrough, and support from above is essential to fight the urge to compare a growth project to historical successes.
  3. A well-defined, yet flexible, implementation process – Far too many high-potential, breakthrough ideas suffer because they are force-fit into the same pipeline as the incremental. These big ideas require nurturing, a flexible process that can help these ideas evolve into something that fills a new space. Often it won’t look like it did coming in, which is a tough thing to be okay with at the front end, but at the back end, you’ll be so happy you were flexible when you see it thrive.

What’s your reaction to these success factors? What do you think are other critical success factors for achieving growth through innovation? We would love to hear other perspectives!

For more tips on growing through innovation, follow Clay @bizinovationist