How to Scale Your Innovation Program

Stacks of coins with increasing height.
Innovation drives growth.

Any well-run business grows, whether at a rapid clip or steadily as it adds clients, products, and services. Thus, every part of a business feels growing pains; departments need more staff, solutions that worked before begin to struggle under the increased volume, and informal approaches break down. This is true of innovation strategy as well, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Why Scaling Fails

We’ve all seen it. A brilliant innovation strategy is conceived, executed as a pilot, and seems ready to go, and then it just doesn’t catch on. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Limited buy-in. No innovation strategy will scale up unless people understand how it’s useful to them.
  • Poor, or no, planning. Scaling requires a schedule, training, and follow-up, just like any other company-wide project.
  • A lack of shared platforms and tools. If you develop an app for iOS, and half your department uses Android, that’s going to limit scale.
  • Unexpected legal or internal policy issues. What happens to your brilliant Facebook poll if your organization has a standing “no social media” policy?
Man presenting to a group of clapping colleagues.
Innovation strategy involves proactive planning.

Scaling The Right Way

Solving the scaling issue is a matter of approach. Instead of taking a wildly successful innovation strategy company-wide, you need to be more measured. It should be introduced in phases, with testing and shakedown cruises to work out bugs and resolve small issues before they escalate.

The best place to start is with the area of your organization that ran the strategy as your company grew, or that was appointed within a large company to try it out. Have them scale it up within their own department; after all, they’re most familiar with their own department. Run tests, solicit feedback, and build it out. When you’re done, ask about lessons learned. What worked? What didn’t? Why?

Then, develop a plan to scale it outward. Bring in representative stakeholders from across your organization, and brief them on the pilot, lessons learned, and a plan to go forward. Ask for volunteers for the next expansion, and reiterate the process with them. Then, just keep going.

Scaling Gets Easier

You’ll find that as you move through each stage, it’ll get easier for you to scale up the pilot, and you may even be able to do multiple areas at once. People will hear about what you’re doing, become familiar with it, and become more accepting of the change. Meanwhile, your team has worked out the obstacles to growth and how to get around them. When you overcome a challenge once, overcoming it a second time is much easier.

Be patient as you’re scaling your innovation project. Any change needs time to sink in. People need to get comfortable with the new strategy and its approaches, to get a few minutes to play with the tools and understand how they work, and to get a sense of what they can do with it. Innovation is ultimately a journey with stops along the way, and sometimes it takes a little while to really get going down the path. To learn more about how to scale your own innovation project, contact us today. 

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