Why are Business Innovation Managers more successful than others?

In many different Innovation Management Surveys the key issue still is successful implementation. The theories will promise outstanding results but the hardness of reality faces us with tough hurdles to cross.

The theory “Blue Ocean Strategy” is one of the examples which supplies managers with a perfect model to change market boundaries. In my opinion the implementation part is still very academically and lacks concrete practical keys for implementation.

Techniques for idea generation like SIT (systematic Inventive Thinking) en TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) are too complex to incorporate in our organization of today. These systematic techniques ask for structural new ways of working and organizing the innovation process. This isn’t something an Innovation Manager with a project portfolio to manage can fixed at the same time.

A Innovation Manager faces quite some hurdles to be successful in implementing innovation projects:

– A manager per definition lacks the time to master complex models and even to endorse it in his organization.
– The Innovation Manager’s task is to integrate the so called “golden triangle”: R&D, Marketing & Sales, Operations. Each business function has its own objective and targets. This lead in many cases to a Political Arena. The Innovation Manager becomes suddenly a Gladiator.
– In order to get budget for the innovation project, many project managers create a Social Accepted Business Case. Their Sales Funnel looks like a perfect Hockey Stick. Of course, during the implementation reality it looks like a flat horizontal line.
– An innovation project is seen as one of the many projects instead as a business project (focus on capturing new business value: money!)

Together with top innovation managers tried and tested (special thanks to Mr. Remco van Es, DSM) we defined some Innovation Project Characteristics of successful implementation:

– Projects with focus on one unique product versus more than one product.
– Projects with clear focus on one unique positioning in the market versus a product with more interpretations on the benefits for the client.
– Projects with just one partner versus more than one or non partners.
– Projects managed by a Manager with an entrepreneurial Business Profile versus a managerial Marketing, R&D or Operations profile.
– Projects with a stable core dedicated team players versus changing team settings.
– Projects with specific cross functional design events (high pressure cooker approach) versus just separate project streams.
– Projects with implementation scenarios versus one “best” way.

The characteristics of Innovation Projects seems to be a little trivial but in real-life situations we see hardly any manager able to endorse it.

It seems to be that Innovation Manager prefer to go down as a Gladiator in the Political Arena rather than being the successful Outsider of the company!