Idea Stage
2 min read

Innovation Hacks: 3 Things No One Tells You About

Published on
December 18, 2023
Christian Vancea
CEO & Co-Founder Essentio
Dominik Renner
CEO & Co-Founder Essentio
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Essentio's Insights on Innovation Management: Three Key Lessons

At Essentio, we recognize that the journey of innovation is often shrouded in mystery. Drawing from our experience, we're shedding light on three crucial aspects of innovation management that are seldom discussed but are vital for any organization seeking to foster a culture of innovation:

  • Quantity Fuels Quality
  • Top-down Leadership and bottom-up Contributions
  • Evidence based Decisions

Quantity Fuels Quality: The Numbers Approach to Innovative Success

In the realm of innovation, the prevailing myth is that staggering success hinges on uncovering one extraordinary idea. Tales of billion-dollar startups often perpetuate this illusion, casting an enchanting aura around the discovery and implementation of a singular, revolutionary concept. However, this is a misguided belief, particularly in the corporate sector. It's a stark reality that many startups fail, and corporations are not immune to this. Success in innovation is frequently not due to a shortage of resources, but rather from investing in ideas that lack sufficient market demand.

To truly excel in innovation, corporations must transform their approach. Instead of concentrating on a few large projects, they should emulate venture capitalists by spreading their investments across a multitude of smaller ventures. This strategy helps corporations evade the pitfall of staking everything on a handful of ideas and fosters a widespread, strategic distribution of innovative efforts. This shift in strategy also demands that innovation becomes a central focus in corporate leadership.

At Essentio, we understand that genuine innovation is a numbers game. By spreading our efforts over a broad array of initiatives, we enhance the odds of achieving significant breakthroughs. This tactic echoes the strategy of successful venture capitalists: making multiple small, calculated bets rather than gambling everything on one venture. This approach is crucial for navigating the inherently unpredictable landscape of innovation.

Innovation requires a blend of both top-down leadership and bottom-up contributions

Organizations benefit significantly when they adopt the strategy of placing numerous small bets instead of a few large ones. However, when adopting this approach, it's crucial to prioritize evidence-based decision-making in investment processes. While it's not about making that one colossal bet, there's a tendency for projects to linger longer than necessary without yielding results. A case in point is Motorola's significant investment in Iridium, a satellite phone project, which despite years of development and billions spent, declared bankruptcy within months of its launch.

The challenge for decision-makers in innovation efforts lies in making informed choices. They are aware that Return on Investment (ROI) is not a reliable metric for early-stage projects, but often struggle to find a viable alternative. This dilemma can lead to decisions being swayed by persuasive presentations and visionary promises, rather than solid evidence. A more effective approach is needed to navigate these challenges.

This is where the dual approach of top-down and bottom-up strategies becomes vital in our innovation strategy. It's essential to have clear strategic direction from the leadership, but it's equally important to foster and incorporate ideas from every level of the organization. This dual approach ensures that our innovation efforts are not only aligned with the company's overarching goals but also contribute meaningfully to them. Additionally, it promotes a culture of creativity and active participation throughout the company, balancing leadership guidance with employee innovation.

It's crucial to follow a path where decisions are shaped by evidence and factual insights

In our organization, the emphasis on evidence-based decision-making in innovation investment is paramount. We prioritize investments in projects that are backed by solid evidence, ensuring that our innovation efforts are aligned with real-world market demand and not just promising ideas. This approach involves rigorous validation from our innovation teams, who are encouraged to move beyond assumptions and gather tangible evidence to validate or invalidate their ideas. This method effectively prevents us from investing in non-viable projects for prolonged periods, ensuring our resources are channeled towards initiatives with real potential.

"Innovation must be rooted in reality, not just in imagination. We strive to blend visionary thinking with practical evidence, ensuring that every project we undertake has a firm foundation in market reality and customer needs." - Dominik Renner

At the core of our strategy is the importance of validation in the decision-making process. Decision-makers are equipped to ask critical questions to innovation teams about customer engagement, evidence supporting the ideas, and the depth of customer interest. By shifting presentations and decision-making from hypotheticals to more evidence-based discussions, we ensure that investments are made based on concrete evidence provided by the teams. This approach not only prevents projects from developing a life of their own without delivering outcomes but also aligns our innovation efforts with tangible, measurable results, fostering a culture of accountability and strategic innovation.

Conclusion: Unveiling the True Facets of Innovation Management

As we reach the end of our exploration into the less discussed realms of innovation management, it's clear that the path to successful innovation in the corporate world is multi-faceted and complex. We've uncovered several key insights that can reshape the way organizations approach this dynamic field.

Summary of Key Insights:

  1. Innovation as a Numbers Game: The journey to innovation is not about finding the elusive 'one great idea.' Instead, it's about spreading risks and opportunities across a spectrum of possibilities. By placing multiple smaller bets, organizations can increase their chances of finding viable, impactful solutions.
  2. The Power of Dual Approaches: Innovation thrives when it is supported both from the top down and the bottom up. Strategic guidance from leadership, combined with the creative energies and insights from all levels of an organization, creates a fertile ground for innovative ideas to take root and flourish.
  3. Evidence-Based Decision Making: The final cornerstone of effective innovation management is a commitment to evidence-based decisions. By grounding innovation projects in data and real-world validation, organizations can steer clear of unproductive ventures and focus on initiatives with the highest potential for market success.

In summary, innovation management is not about chasing after a single, shining idea but rather nurturing a diverse portfolio of initiatives. It requires a balanced approach that values both leadership vision and grassroots innovation, all underpinned by a rigorous, evidence-based decision-making process. By embracing these principles, organizations can navigate the complex terrain of innovation with greater confidence and success.

As we close this chapter, we invite you to reflect on these insights and consider how they can be applied within your own organization to drive effective and sustainable innovation.

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