While grinding it out is required at times, it’s not sustainable. At some point, product and service quality will decline. This is often due to the ripple effects of overextending, which include burnout and poor decision-making.
That said, there is often a fine line between innovating and overextending. Below are 7 factors that will minimize overextending.
#1 You Aren’t Right For Every Client
To succeed in business, you must identify what consumer solutions your product solves and how your offerings outshine the competition.
So, if a customer comes to you with a request that is outside of your scope, it could be an opportunity to evolve your products or services. It could also mean that your products or services simply aren’t the right fit for them. Again, this can be a fine line.
For example, if you provide website design services and your client wants to hire you for digital marketing—this is a natural evolution. Website design is a one-and-done service, with occasional ongoing needs. However, digital marketing needs are ongoing. So, it may be worth investing in a digital marketing department.
On the flip side, if a client wants your vegan food company to offer a meat product in the same flavor—it’s not worth entertaining as meat is not aligned with your brand.
#2 Not All Client Requests Should Be Met
While understanding the customer experience must be a top priority, not all client requests should be entertained. The product or service evolution you move forward with should be aligned with your organizational objectives. So, when gathering data from consumer questions and reviews, consider if it’s best to provide their request yourself—or partner with a company that provides what they are searching for.
For example, on an episode of Shark Tank, the owners of the Surprise Cake didn’t make a deal because the Sharks believed that Surprise Cake was entertaining the wrong consumer request. Their novelty cake stand has a “popup” tube built in that holds small gifts. In a desire to grow their business, they went on Shark Tank to secure funds to fill their top two client request—to sell cakes and gifts.
The sharks passed because they believed that the cost, complexities, and learning curve of introducing baked goods to a shelf-stable product line were not the right move.
So, listen to your clients but transforming your business isn’t always required. What may be a better fit is identifying aligned partners. For example, Surprise Cake could have partnered with both a cake and gift company to refer their clients for a commission.
That said, without the Sharks, Surprise Cakes moved forward with a miniature cake that releases confetti. They also took the Shark’s advice and launched a variety of accessories for their popup cake stand.
#3 Resources Are Limited
Quality innovations require the right resources. If your resources are limited, attempting to spread them between multiple projects can be the difference between 1 amazing innovation—and 2 sub-par innovations.
The top resources to consider are time, tools, third-party partners, and funds.
Time—the age-old saying “quality takes time” rings true. While there are circumstances that warrant accelerating the timeline, that should be the exception and not the rule.
Tools—from innovation software to digital printers for prototyping, and any in-house investments that need to be made to develop your product.
Third-party partners—you may need to onboard new team members, but contracted subject-matter experts may optimize time and resources.
Funds—from the labor required to complete the project to the costs associated with every aspect of development, manufacturing, consumer testing, quality assurance, and rollout.
#4 Pursuing the Wrong Trends
Sometimes when searching to differentiate, we pursue the wrong trends. This might be a trend that was once in demand, but interest has waned. It could also be something that you or your team are passionate about, but consumer value has yet to be determined.
On the flip side, sometimes trends that serve underserved and hyper-targeted niches can be highly lucrative. So, how do you know which trends to pursue? An innovation maturity assessment is essential. To eliminate the inevitable internal bias, partner with an external innovation expert.
#5 Your Innovation Mix Is Unbalanced
Most organizations have multiple projects in the pipeline at the same time. While your needs will vary, this is ideally a balanced mix of short-term, mid-range, and long-term innovations. Also, a mix of innovations for external consumers and internal optimization.
So, when prioritizing which innovations to move forward with, map out the timeline for each project. Also, consider which could be delivered sooner if you were working on fewer projects. Sometimes you can optimize the delivery of all projects in your pipeline by working on 3 instead of 4 or 5. This is particularly true if you have overlapping team members, or to ensure you build your in-house dream team.
#6 Internal Timing Isn’t Right
If your organization or industry is in a time of major change, your team may already be spread too thin. Asking them to innovate on top of disruptive change may leave them overextended.
If the change is internal, create a change management strategy to minimize the daily strain. This is most often successful if outlined and implemented by a change management expert.
If the change is industry-wide, local or global innovation is required. This may require halting or pivoting on existing projects to address the more pressing need. If you try to innovate a resolution while moving forward with existing projects, you will likely overextend your team
#7 Your Innovations Continue to Fail
There are many reasons why innovations fail or underperform, one of which is that your team is overextended. This could be the team developing the product or service, or the ones providing the testing and feedback.
If you aren’t clear on what or where the area of opportunity is, a measurable innovation assessment and plan will help. These are both areas of opportunity IdeaScale can assist with.
Finally, if you aren’t sure—just ask! If you have empowered your team with truly open lines of communication, they will share what isn’t currently working. They may also offer up a few resolutions for how to support them in their success.