Why Innovation Fails— And How to Break the Cycle

Are you pulling out all the stops when it comes to innovation but still failing to drive business growth? Do you struggle to turn your big picture goals and plans into action steps that connect your technology and marketing capabilities?

In my experiences as both a senior corporate executive and as an independent business advisor, I have come to believe that the biggest innovation roadblock for organizations is the inability to coordinate and align on intent, content, and spirit. The lack of clear and actionable strategies to connect technology and marketing capabilities can stunt business growth— and is quite frankly far too common. With the right tools, these hang-ups can be avoided.

Getting the ball rolling with goal setting and a strategic plan to take your business from point A to point B is the fun part, no doubt. Pretty slides, big ambitions, getting the team hyped up— it all plays a role in making business leadership so fun. But, implementing action steps and processes to turn your strategy into reality? Even with data-driven ideas and the latest tech capabilities, that part is more easily said than done. So it figures, that’s where the magic really happens.

I believe that an effective innovation strategy must be designed with business outcomes, people engagement (internal and external), and practical execution top-of-mind.

Let’s use a real example to break this down. A previous client of mine had a business proposition that led to some strong initial market performance. However, when the times and competition got tough, the model appeared not to be repeatable or scalable. Growth and profit began to suffer.

For all its original strength, the proposition was lacking an intimate alignment between the core business model, the needs of the customers, the company’s strengths and assets, and the commitment of its leaders.

So, step-by-step, we built a strategy for action and connected technical and commercial people with the business leaders to create and deliver, together. By now, you’ve probably heard me talk about the importance of a ‘One Team-One Goal’ mindset and it holds true here.

We started by creating and road testing a new core business value proposition with a focus on the following:

  • The experience to deliver to its customers against present and future needs
  • The key drivers chosen for a renewed business model: sharp benefit and target audience, proven product superiority, a single brand with heavy support and endorsement, easy to access channel, customer service and profit model
  • The stretch and strain this new business model would impose on the existing one and the company's capabilities and assets

The result was a clear identification of the company’s growth sweet spot, growth platforms, and their must-win battles (call them whatever speaks to you).

The next task was to connect technology and marketing capabilities, their people, and the leaders of the company.

I believe that a clear vision, inspiring content, and clarity of what needs to be done at an individual level can bring people together. To get there, we merged innovation and marketing people into a new Value Creation Team.

This team of diverse experiences looked at the consumer needs, the new value proposition, the new business and profit model, the new growth sweet spot, the new growth platforms, the new must-win battles— and we asked ourselves the question, “so what?”

The result was a re-born market-centric innovation pipeline with consumer, market, business and technology integrated from the start. This structure would help us to overcome implementation issues as soon as possible.

It is said that beginnings are difficult. But I say, in innovation, beginnings are the easy part. Execution and follow-through, scaling an idea without losing its core, making lots of mistakes, and eventually making more money than mistakes...these steps turn business ideas into business successes.

Now, back to the client. Sometime down the road of execution, slides began to replace the newfound open dialogue we had worked for. We realized the hypothesized approach wasn’t working and the strategy once again required a pivot.

We asked ourselves at each output milestone what was working, what was not working, and what needed attention. We worked together to create solutions, and in doing so, found the following:

-Amplifying what was working boosted ideas and innovation capabilities
-Co-creating solutions for what was not working got people into problem-solving mindsets and away from blame or justification
-Bringing our attention to the things that might not work down the line led to pro-active actions that prevented some of them from becoming real issues

Innovation doesn’t mean there won’t be trial and error. In fact, I’ve found quite the opposite to be true. It means you’re prepared to go in with eyes and ears wide open, recognize what does work, what doesn’t, and understanding when to change.

All of this to say, if you want to boost your innovation, here are the tried and true (and tough) steps I still stand by:

  • First, create a truly actionable strategy by connecting the new business model with the customer, the company’s capabilities, assets and its people.
  • Second, connect technology and marketing capabilities and people so they operate as Value Creation Cells alongside the company leaders, to ideate holistically and accelerate implementation end-to-end.
  • Finally, build a practical and simple follow up approach to ensure sustainable implementation and delivery— and recognize when it’s working and when it needs to be re-evaluated.

Practice builds habits. And a lot of it is needed before successful innovation can become a habit. I hope these insights help strengthen your practice and provide a bit of clarity as you navigate business innovation road bumps.

As always, feel free to comment or reach out with comments or questions, or schedule a free discovery call if you’re interested in working together on a customer business growth plan tailored to your specific needs.

For more info/questions about this topic or business transformation in general, please reach out to us at accelerate@growthride.com. We’re always grateful to keep the conversation going!

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