When we think about creating new products and services, it can seem relatively easy on the surface. Almost anyone can come up with fantastic ideas. It's not difficult to come up with ideas about almost any challenge in any setting. The challenges occur after the ideas are generated, once they must be converted into new products or services.
The relative ease of generating ideas often leads to a number of "traps" that block or stymie innovation. These traps aren't apparent, and so many companies stumble into them. These traps work against received wisdom and often delay or block conversion of ideas into new products and services. Here are three traps that often catch unwitting or unsuspecting entrepreneurs and innovators.
It's Everyone's Job
If everyone can come up with good ideas, then everyone should be on the hook for innovation, right? Too often innovation responsibility is too widely distributed, and when everyone is responsible for something ultimately no one is. We definitely want to encourage wide participation in innovation activities, but someone needs to be accountable for moving ideas from the flip charts to product or service development. Remember the everyone, anyone, someone and no one story!
Encourage everyone to participate, but hold someone accountable for converting good ideas into products and services. It needs to be someone's job.
Some people are really creative, while others may not appear to be quite as creative or have as much passion or energy for idea generation. Given the challenges associated with creating really vital and important ideas, you must build on your team's skills and provide innovation training and smooth the pathways for innovation activities. No matter how creative and intuitive some innovators are, they can't succeed on their own and in the face of cultural resistance and a lack of assistance or structure. You can rarely distract or delay good idea generation if you have passionate people, but apathy and a lack of process or clarity can eventually stymie even really good ideas.
Don't rely on a few really creative people and ignore the processes and pathways that must exist in order to convert ideas into products.
We Know Best
Sorry, but so many innovations fail because the innovation originates from the "inside out". What I mean is that rather than understand customer needs and gaps, entrepreneurs and innovators build new technologies and offer them to customers, regardless of their needs. This "build it and they will come" model has led to a massive graveyard of good technologies and even good ideas that didn't meet customer needs or expectations.
To develop really interesting new products and services you must explore and discover needs and gaps that customers experience, and the only way to do that is go out and experience what they experience with an open mind, and leave the "we know best" attitude behind.
When it comes to creating new products and services, it's everyone's job to generate ideas but an individual's responsibility to develop and commercialize, it's everyone's job to gain new skills, never relying on just the "creative types" for ideas, and it's everyone's job to recognize that good innovations start with the customer need in mind, and fully validated.