Ludwig Melik, Planbox CEO
Nothing represents the epic struggle to win between two contenders better than a boxing match. You can apply many different strategies to achieve victory depending on your opponent’s style and the strengths you bring to the ring. You can try to go the distance for all 12 rounds and outlast your adversary while scoring more points, or you can go the knockout punch and end the fight without taking too many hits.
This is the kind of attitude organizations need to have as they embark on their innovation journey and seek the challenges that matter most to help them succeed over their competition. But just like in boxing, holding the champion belt can only last so long until an unknown fighter throws a surprise punch and completely changes the game. You need to continue looking for new ways to innovate to stay on your ‘A’ game.
The innovation pipeline, the ideas and concepts that are available to you at various stages of development, is expanding wider and deeper. There are a lot more opportunities to seize; but there is also a lot more data to analyze, potential contributors to reach out to, and innovation work to take on in order to bring an explosive new idea to market. The Great One neatly summarizes all the behind-the-scenes work that must be accomplished to make any innovation come to fruition:
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
– Muhammad Ali
It’s not about dreaming up new ideas and just showing up the day-of seeking glory. Instead, a lot of the work is done preparing for that big day. These are the six areas you must focus on to create an integrated strategy for managing your innovation portfolio:
Innovation Sourcing & Curation
“All I wanna do is go the distance.” – Rocky Balboa
The double-end bag and speed bag helps develop rhythm, timing, and accuracy. It is often the most neglected training exercise. Getting used to hitting a target as it moves is indispensable in boxing, the equivalent in the innovation world is information sourcing and concept development strategy. There are many moving pieces in how market dynamics are shifting, consumer behavior is changing, and new potential threats are emerging from the horizon. It is hard to stay on top of all of them unless the organization learns to master and act on the information that is available. Organizations need to leverage AI; connecting them to the data sources that deliver the insights needed to zero-in on which problems are worth solving, and how to frame the grand challenge that should be focused on.
“Now you know what you’re fighting for.” – Rocky Balboa
You can’t stay on offense all the time. You need to build good defensive mechanisms that help ward off unanticipated risks and obstacles. The jab counterpunch is a great way to throw your opponent off balance and punch back, turning defense into an attack. The parallel in innovation is to make a big bet that building an innovation ecosystem will help you leverage the strong network and deep connections you built when you need it most. This can be done by tapping into the collective intelligence of your employees, working collaboratively with your business partners and suppliers, learning from your customers, and looking to see how you can better engage start-ups, universities, and the public at large.
Working with Start-ups
“Going in one more round when you don’t think you can. That’s what makes all the difference in your life.” – Rocky Balboa
You definitely don’t want to get sucker-punched in the ring and when it comes to innovation. The best way to avoid getting blindsided is to keep a close eye on the start-up community and their potential to disrupt your business; The challenge is that the sheer number of startups in an ever connected and globally dispersed world makes it difficult to separate the signal from the noise. By employing a consistent triaged process to evaluate startups, you can make sure you are focusing on the problem areas your organization should be concentrated on. You can then establish a standard workflow to assess the best way to partner with the startups which have the most potential, rather than getting distracted.
Business Canvas & Incubation
“One step. One punch. One round at a time!” – Rocky Balboa
Knockouts don’t happen by accident, they have to be carefully crafted; it’s that great moment of magic when you deliver the killer shot to end the fight. In innovation, building a Business Model Canvas (BMC), running experiments, and a proper incubation period allows the organization to reap the full potential of every creative idea. The BMC establishes the idea potential, whether it can garner executive sponsorship and get prioritized as a change that can really impact the company’s performance. The incubation period allows you to build prototypes which avoid making big bets when it’s not the right time yet; or making the mistake of going down a conventional project path and killing off an amazing idea prematurely.
Exploration & Experimentation
“Success is usually the culmination of controlling failure.” – Sylvester Stallone
By breaking away in boxing you create the much-needed room to reassess your situation and try something new to help achieve your desired outcome. You can’t just keep doing the same thing and expect different results. In innovation, this translates to ensuing experimentation is rampant and ingrained in your culture. Keeping a close eye on what constitutes real learning that is celebrated, and carefully reducing costs per iteration to be able to experiment at-scale, translates into your organization’s ability to break away from the competition and always stay one step ahead.
“Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give… it’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa
You need to see where you stand, and the best way to do that is to keep sparring. You can’t just walk into the ring for the big fight. To sharpen your moves, you need to keep practicing and studying your results.
The constant pressure to innovate requires greater visibility into innovation ROI by understanding what your overall innovation portfolio looks like, and the velocity of execution across your entire innovation funnel.
“Time takes everybody out; time’s undefeated.” – Rocky Balboa
You can learn the hard way like the scene in the movie the movie Creed where Adonis hits the mat hard.
When you underestimate your competition or are unprepared for the fight ahead. Innovation management must be a constant flow of ideas and actions that your organization knows that has no beginning and no end. Your ability to operate with a knockout innovation mindset is going to help you truly create an organization that is built to last and outmatch the competition.