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How Fast Should You Innovate?

09 May

In innovation, faster is almost always better.

Every day of delay represents a lost day of additional earnings. Every day of delay gives competitors the opportunity to gain an advantage. As I posted earlier, the cost of getting things wrong on a new product may be 4% of revenues, but the cost of delaying the launch by six months is estimated at 33%!

Yet, most corporations feel little urgency to innovate. We have seen 9-week innovation projects stretched to 50 weeks, and some managers have let six months go by without contacting us for further assistance on their projects.

Time is a dimension of culture. If we grow up, as Americans do, learning that time is money, we can be fanatical about getting things done in a hurry. If our parents teach us instead that that schedules are flexible even at the last moment, that nothing is urgent, and that relationships count more than results, we often schedule our professional endeavors in the same way.

There is one area in innovation where we need to be willing to wait. That is in the first step, discovery of insights. While we should work quickly, we should not rush to the second step, invention, until we are sure that we have identified the most valuable insights. Too many companies, however, have little patience for primary research, and they want to jump headlong into brainstorming for solutions.

Let’s appraise our own willingness to innovate faster. It may mean reordering our priorities, investing more manpower and money, or even refusing a request to postpone an innovation activity. If we are willing to put innovation first, we are more likely to get the maximum rewards from our innovation efforts.

Related reading: The Rising Need for Innovation Speed

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