Everywhere you turn today, leaders are calling for more ‘innovation.’ Whether it is in business, government, or non-profits, everyone wants to be ‘innovative’ and create ‘innovative solutions.’
The problem is when you ask most leaders who want more ‘innovation’ to define what they mean by innovation, you get many different and varying answers. When you ask those same leaders to describe the process by which they want their organization to create innovation, you often get blank stares. They know they want innovation, they just do not know how to get it.
The Webster’s dictionary definition of innovation is: "the introduction of something new." There is always a need for new and creative solutions. Innovation drives growth, and growth is usually a top priority for most organizations. Most successful businesses have many disciplined processes to run their operations. They have systematic processes to manage Accounting, HR, Product Management, Customer Support, etc. Yet, when it comes to creating innovation, many organizations have no systematic or disciplined approach.
A common formula that many people have for Innovation is as follows. A good idea + individual heroism + serendipity = a breakthrough idea. This is the ad hoc approach to innovation. The thought is, throw some ‘creative people’ into a room with Post-It notes, Sharpie pens, and some Nerf guns to spur creativity, and then cross your fingers and hope that something new and creative comes out of the exercise. Usually, this approach does not yield the desired results.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are some Fortune 500 companies that have very large, dedicated Innovation teams, such as P&G, 3M, and Google. But, most companies do not have the resources to create dedicated teams to drive breakthrough innovation. The cost is too high, and they are not structured to support this type of ‘Innovation Factory.’
There is, however, a third way that does not rely on the ad hoc innovation efforts, or that requires the significant investments of a dedicated innovation factory. This process is called the ‘Minimally Viable Innovation System’, or MVIS. This system creates a middle ground approach between ad hoc and a large innovation factory. The MVIS system is low cost agile approach that can be implemented in 90 days. ISE did not create this methodology. We are leveraging a proven approach that is documented in the December 2014 Harvard Business Review article entitled, Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days. We use this approach at ISE with our own development and with our clients as we help them with their innovation projects.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will describe in more detail how the MVIS innovation process works, how it leverages the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) concept from Agile development, and how we apply this disciplined process to software engineering. Questions about Agile? Reach out or comment below!