Five Tips for Innovators This November

By Kaitlin Milliken |  November 4, 2019

No matter your role or experience level in the world of innovation, every innovator encounters both success and failure. This past month, our team at InnoLead has been focused on creating resources to help your team tackle both. 

Our recent magazine, published this month, is split into two sides. The first gathers best practices from innovation role models, including companies that have excelled in scouting for emerging technology and engaging in co-creation. The other side explores how to bounce back from failures. In this section, we gather advice from experts who discuss the right attitude when it comes to failure and how to extract learnings from projects that flop. 

Members can download the full magazine here. We have also gathered five pieces of advice from our October online coverage below. 

Celebrate (and Even Reward) Failure.

“When people fear failure, they act safe. They rarely (if ever) take risks or stick their neck out for something they so passionately believe is the best thing to do. Low risk equals low reward. And when people act safe, they will only, at best, meet expectations,” writes Mike Proulx, Hill Holliday’s Chief Innovation Officer. 

In order to encourage employees at the advertising firm to take risks, the company started the Epic Fail Awards in 2014. The award recognizes innovators who have “guts and [an] appetite for risk-taking.” Find out more. 

Avoid Common Mistakes.

While risk-taking and failure can provide valuable learning, fundamental mistakes early on can compromise your innovation effort. One pitfall: “[Putting] the leadership team on a plane to Silicon Valley to visit startup accelerators, incubators, venture capital firms, and the Google-plex. The innovation practices of the startup world, or companies with $100+ billion of cash on their balance sheet (like Google), are not readily applicable in your sprawling, risk-averse, decades-old organization.” 

Find out 19 other detrimental mistakes for new innovation programs. 

Make New Technology Invisible.

Royal Caribbean Cruises is half-way through a 5-year-long digital transformation journey. When asked for takeaways thus far, Head of Innovation and Transformation Joey Hasty says technology should be “invisible” to the end-user. 

“No one wants to use facial recognition. Everyone just wants to get on board the ship. No one wants an app. People just want a drink brought to them. So whenever you can, really work to hide the technology so it just blends into your experience,” Hasty says. “Not everyone has a cruise ship to hide it on, but I really found a lot of success in really understanding that people have goals, and it’s never the technology that you’re bringing to bear.”

Find out more about tech scouting on the high seas in our podcast or magazine

Transform an Existing Category Instead of Starting a New One.

When pursuing something new, teams must choose between being a first-mover and a fast-follower. In our last magazine, Blade Kotelly, former Vice President of Design at Jibo, points to this dilemma as one factor that led the world’s first at-home, social robot to fail. 

“Since there was no dominant design for what a social robot is supposed to be, and since no one knew how to successfully make one that lived with you at home—including the team that had the initial vision—there were few starting points to work from. This was the Wild West of human-machine design: no rules, no reference designs, no best practices,”  Kotelly writes. 

The solution: “Create transformational innovations in an existing category, or expect that you’ll need the horsepower and protection of a larger organization to weather the storm of uncertainty.” 

Read Kotelly’s full post-mortem. 

Set Expectations about Your Success Rate. 

During the first ever call-in episode of our podcast, one InnoLead member asked, “If only 10 to 25% of startups are successful, how do I set [expectations]…with a company that expects all R&D projects to be successful?”

Hari Nair, a current Fellow at Harvard University and a former Global Managing Director at Kimberly Clark, suggests listeners start by looking at their innovation portfolio. “Certain types of innovation [H1] will have a very high success rate,” Nair says. “But there are going to be innovations that are really new, Horizon-3-type stuff that are really out there, that you should expect a higher failure rate.”

InnoLead’s Managing Editor Kelsey Alpaio says that teams should be transparent about the amount of risk in innovation at the beginning. “At every meeting they have with senior leaders, [one team] started with a statistic of some sort that helps set those expectations,” she says. “That really kind of lays the groundwork…and always keeps that ingrained in [leaderships’] minds.”

See what other questions Alpaio and Nair tackled.