Innovation Management

Why Don't Innovation Platforms Work?

I’ll cut to the chase and answer the question posed in the headline: Because we as an industry have yet to master process.

I’ll cut to the chase and answer the question posed in the headline: Because we as an industry have yet to master process.

Innovation has attempted to inch its way into the era of software automation, but it's done so without identifying the methodology, models and approach it takes to repeatedly innovate successfully. Given this preemptive leap, we’ve seen a lot of innovation management platforms fail to solve the biggest innovation challenges.

Because of this, innovation is still seen as a crapshoot. Companies cycle between loving it and leaving it because the innovation process (or lack thereof) has proven to be neither repeatable nor dependable. It’s time for the industry to take a step back and fix what we missed in our rush to automate.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s compare the path of innovation to that of sales and marketing in the twentieth century.

Sales has long been a leader in process and automation with the Great Depression Era paving the way to establishing industry-recognized process. Before then, snake oil salesmen gave the discipline a bad rap with an “anything goes” sales mentality, claiming their product would make you thinner, prettier, healthier...whatever it took to get the sale. Consumers couldn’t trust the process and were quick to close wallets and slam doors when money was tight during the economic crisis. Savvy salesmen quickly realized snake oil was not the way to long term success. Repeatable sales processes were developed - like SPIN and Sandler Method - and were continuously improved upon over many decades. In 1999, Salesforce disrupted the industry with customer relationship management automation and launched a predictive model 12 years later, once again changing the way sales would be done.

Marketing follows a similar timeline with print ads, posters and billboards put in use with no industry standards to follow. Best practices began to take shape with the commercialization of radio broadcasting in the 1920s, the formation of the FCC in the 1930s and the specialization of marketing to support sales beginning in the 1940s. Fast forward to the dawn of the internet, and you see processes around blogging, email marketing and SEO quickly established. In 2006, HubSpot disrupted the space with the introduction of its inbound marketing platform then launched predictive lead scoring in 2018.

Unlike sales and marketing, where processes were developed over many decades, innovation as an industry has yet to establish a repeatable process. There is no industry standard, and this creates a problem that needs to be solved before we can successfully digitize innovation as a service. The innovation platforms that do exist skipped ahead in the sequence of automation before truly mastering the process phase, a crucial step required for successful digitization. As a result, what we’ve seen in innovation management is a lot of fantastic idea management tools that claim to innovate. But let’s be clear about something -- ideas are only potential innovations. A lot has to be done to scale an idea into a real, revenue-driving solution. Namely, developing a proven, repeatable process.

We as an industry need to take a step back and think about process before we move on to platform. As a practicing innovation expert and former academic researcher in the area of innovation predictive models, I was thrown into entrepreneurship as a means to an end. I absolutely had to fix the innovation process, so I could effectively do my job. So, here I am in the founder's seat, doing my best to make innovation teams everywhere aware of the possibilities that exist when they have the right tools to support them in their roles. My hope is that Productable can lead the way in solidifying a proven, repeatable process and shake up a space that no other startup has successfully disrupted.

Rachel Kuhr Conn is an entrepreneur, intrapreneur, researcher, world-traveler and lifelong academic dedicated to making true transformation easier for all. She founded Productable after perfecting her own innovation process for Mark Cuban’s portfolio of startups and is on a mission to help the world’s largest organizations drive fearless experimentation.

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