WHEN NEW IDEAS
The top reasons innovation
projects and programs flop.
BY KAREEM SHAKER, PMI-RMP, PMP
Kareem Shaker, PMI-RMP, PMP, is a senior
manager, project and enterprise risk, at Dubai
World, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He can
be followed on Twitter at @kareemshaker.
A sense of purpose is the main driver for your
team to innovate, so make sure team members
understand the goal behind the innovation project. Passion won’t spark unless the team believes
in the project or program. That means moving
beyond project parameters and communicating
the strategy driving the desired innovation. A
precise goal—clearly stated and discussed—is an
essential antidote to innovation failure.
If there is a common root of failed innovations, it is
ignoring customer feedback during the innovation
process. Disregarding this key stakeholder feedback
has led to poor adoption or weak sales time and
again. Maybe the product isn’t intuitive to use. Or
it’s overpriced or unrealistically bold. Many projects
and programs fall victim to these pitfalls because
organizations overlook customer feedback early in
the product-development process. These stakeholders can be the best source of insight and ideas, and
their feedback on the innovation journey is a crucial
forecast of the long-term viability of the product.
An innovative product with a decent number of
features that’s ready to be launched today is definitely more advantageous than one that will be
ready in a year’s time with more bells and whistles.
Trying to gold-plate the product may wind up
paralyzing the project, as scope creeps ever outward. Seeking perfection can also inflate project
costs, lengthen time to market and make you lose
customers who are ready to buy your product now.
The first-generation iPhone operating system, for
example, lacked copy-and-paste functionality, but
Apple made the bold decision not to include it in
the first version. PM
Innovation does not guarantee success. Many
top-notch organizations have launched innovative
product-development projects that were broadly
marketed and hugely funded but turned out to be
fiascoes. Remember Microsoft Zune, Google Wave
and Apple Maps? None of these much-trumpeted
products met its predicted impact. Just because your
project intends to deliver a one-of-a-kind product
or service does not mean your customers will buy
into it. Here are the common pitfalls of innovation
projects and programs—and how to avoid them.
Though innovation can never rest on one person’s
shoulders alone, it does require a centralized role
that can be held accountable in case the project or
program proves unproductive. Most organizations
do not have a dedicated chief innovation officer
who drives the innovation practice and owns the
ideation and implementation processes.
The innovation framework must receive buy-
in at the executive level. This framework should
cover ideation; filtering ideas; selecting, balancing
and prioritizing the ideas portfolio; and delivering
the end result. The framework must be rigorously
followed and governed, using a set of key
indicators that should be periodically
reviewed by a steering committee
and board of directors. Without
and programs can end
up being futile, with
responsibility thinly spread
across different teams.