Converting an Idea into a New Business Solution is a Lot of Work

Innovation culture places a very high premium on the ‘great idea’ as an enabler for innovation. Popular culture is cluttered with the idea of the genius innovator who has one great idea after another. In truth, innovation is a systematic discipline that can be learned and practiced. In fact, as Peter Drucker, the management guru pointed out, “An innovation program based on the hopes of producing some bright ideas is the riskiest.”

Not all complexities on the ground can be imagined and anticipated in a lab. These complexities often get underestimated and organizations end up biting a lot more than they can chew. A lot of good innovative ideas fail because this last-mile connectivity is not achieved.

An idea is just a starting point for innovation rather than the end goal. An innovation can be classified as one only when it becomes useful to someone. A lot of work is required before a bright idea or invention can become an innovation. This is the art of systematic innovation.

Technologists who are in awe of technology often fail to apply the critical thinking needed to make a technical invention into a successful innovation. Scientists and inventors are frequently guilty of giving undue importance to technical feasibility, while underestimating other factors that go into creating an innovative product, such as economic viability, ease of use, aesthetic appeal, process changes and availability of talent. In reality, the idea accounts for only a small percentage of the final product. It is the other factors that pre-dominantly determine whether an innovation is successful or not.

When evaluating an idea, and while iterating on a solution, it is important that each iteration covers the entire solution – and not just the core idea. Innovation programs must take into account that creating a proof of concept or iterating on a prototype means testing out as many of these other factors as possible, in addition to testing the core concept.