TIP: Lacking resources – how to cook an omelet with few eggs

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We will not insult you by lecturing on the importance of having people and capital to run an innovation program. This is obvious and we’re sure you’re taking care of that. What sometimes is not so obvious is the need for a constituency inside your company to provide support through different phases of the innovation process.

You will need internal support for communication, which will help you reach out to stakeholders in far-flung parts of the organisation and give a little boost when needed to a particular idea or venture. Forget about employing a huge army of innovation musketeers – that’s not going to happen.

However, you can overcome the challenge of limited resources devoted to innovation projects. Here is how:

1. Have your innovation foot soldiers
Since you’re not being given an army of trained consultants to fight the innovation war, you need to find innovative ways to build a constituency. Ongoing training programs that produce and encourage innovation practitioners are one valid way to go. Over time you will develop a base ready to support you in your efforts, especially if you have this type of contribution codified in each individual’s performance evaluation targets.

Exago’s Idea Management expert services were recently commissioned to design a program that built an internal unit of innovation practitioners. We were inspired by efficiency focused Six Sigma type programs that train and engage individuals at different proficiency levels to cut waste and improve efficiency.

Within this framework, we designed and developed a specific set of outcomes that would increase the success of initiatives by improving content quality, accelerating throughput and de-risking opportunities. We named our program “Innovation Sigma” and we believe it will produce a cadre of innovation pivots inside the organization.

This program includes:

  • Definition of the different levels of innovation proficiency
  • The curriculum (tools and courseware) for each proficiency level
  • A set of guidelines describing how individuals can progress from one proficiency level to the next.

2. Secure a small venture development budget
We’ve previously mentioned the need to secure a minimum three-year budget to prevent short-sighted decision makers from destroying your innovation plan. Make sure that your budget includes funds to support promising and interesting business ventures that don’t have a natural owner in the organizational chart.

Experiment and test fast to find the projects that will make the difference. Always recall that lack of human resources and capital are among the main causes for the demise of innovation programs.

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder
pcc@exago.com

FROM THE START: Innovation looks easy – it’s not

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