Innovation is the lifeblood of any successful business. It allows companies to keep up with the constantly changing market and stay ahead of the competition.
The innovation process can be difficult for many companies, but particularly so for larger ones. There are often numerous ideas around the company on how to improve things, but capturing and executing on them can be a struggle. While companies are getting better at capturing ideas, a new problem is emerging: they have too many ideas in their innovation pipeline, which needs to be prioritised. A lot of time and money is spent deciding which ideas to invest in, and many ideas that should be killed are kept alive, turning into "zombie ideas".
Zombie ideas are ideas that have been in a company's innovation pipeline for so long that everyone is a little bored of them. They may sound great in theory, but there is no clear value defined, or they may be too expensive to deliver, or the technology may not be quite good enough to deliver them.
Zombie ideas can be dangerous for organisations for several reasons. Firstly, they waste precious resources such as time and money that could be allocated to more promising ideas. Secondly, they can burn out innovation energy, leaving the organisation feeling like they have already done a lot of work, but in reality, they have not made any progress. Thirdly, zombie ideas can give a false sense of security, making the company feel like they are innovating, when in fact, they are not.
Companies may be hesitant to kill ideas because they fear it will send a message to their employees that their ideas are bad, which could demotivate them from thinking of other ideas. However, killing an idea can often have the opposite effect. Employees may come up with improved versions of the idea or more new ideas. If an idea is not killed, an employee may assume that the idea was great and the company will eventually work on it, leading to frustration when the idea remains in the innovation pipeline for too long. This can increase the likelihood of employees leaving the company for one where their ideas are more appreciated.
The best way to deal with zombie ideas is to have a structured process for killing them. The process should involve evaluating each idea against specific criteria, such as the potential value it would bring to the company, the feasibility of executing it, and the resources required to deliver it. If the idea doesn't meet the criteria, it should be killed, regardless of who came up with it or how long it has been in the pipeline.
Big companies should have a central team that generates big ideas, while individual teams generate small ideas. This way, everyone can participate in the innovation process, and there is a constant flow of ideas into the innovation pipeline. This approach can help prevent the stagnation of ideas.
To ensure that the innovation process runs smoothly, it is also important for the idea to have a business owner with skin in the game, with a clear understanding of who is pushing the idea, and what their motivation is. This creates a sense of ownership and accountability and can also help ensure that everyone involved in the innovation process is invested in its success and committed to seeing it through.
Finally, each idea should have a clear value statement. This statement should outline the potential value that the idea could bring to the company, its feasibility, and the resources required to deliver it. This will make it easier to evaluate the idea and prioritise it accordingly.
At Curvestone we love to help our clients groom their idea portfolios, to progress only the highest potential solutions to implementation.
If you would like to know more please get in touch.