This new management method makes it nearly impossible for innovation teams to fail at delivering multiple challenging innovation projects faster, with less risk and lower required budgets.

Most innovation experts often say that traditional management processes are not the way to run innovation projects.

And this is true. Traditional project management and financial management processes and principles are designed to produce robust plans for exactly how a project should run, and select only projects which are likely to succeed. This can be very effective at reducing risk and driving efficiency in existing processes and operations.

However, these processes are not designed to work with innovation projects, where there is no clear plan, or even a confirmation that the innovation idea will actually work once it is delivered.

Doubly unfortunately, the same innovation experts who say that traditional management methods do not work for innovation projects usually cannot tell you which innovation management methods, frameworks and processes to use to actually run successful innovation projects.

This is especially challenging when a company is trying to run multiple innovation projects simultaneously, but like every other company also has limited staff, resources and budget to allocate. How do you prioritise the potential innovation projects?

No wonder that around 96% of innovation projects fail. There is no clarity on what innovation teams need to do in order to successfully deliver a project.

But do not fear.

This article will change that.

In this article, I will tell you about an exciting new innovation management method which your teams can use today in order to deliver complex innovation projects faster, cheaper, with lower risk and more alignment across all stakeholders involved.

And I will let you see exactly how the simple checklist-based set of 10 questions can work to validate progress on any innovation project looking to build a new product, venture, business model or customer value driver.

Using this method allows innovation teams to make progress in days or weeks, which would previously have taken months or years!

Best of all, it significantly increases the likelihood that the innovation projects which are piloted are actually the ones which can scale and deliver value to the existing business.

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If you want to talk with Nick Skillicorn (founder of Improvides Innovation Consulting and creator of the L.I.V.E. method) about how the L.I.V.E. method could work for your team, click here to book a free strategy video call, or if you prefer email click here to contact him directly.

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The problem with traditional project management techniques

So what is actually wrong with traditional project management methods and techniques when it comes to delivering innovation projects?

Well, I spent more than a decade delivering large transformation programs around the world, and have seen first-hand the situations where project management can deliver real value, and where it falls flat.

Traditional project management is based on rigorous planning before a project begins and then tracking performance against that plan over time, while aiming to identify and reduce risks and issues before they happen. Good examples of projects which rely on traditional project management are construction (where a building is planned in advance and then constructed according to a set schedule), installation of large IT systems (like Enterprise Resource Planning systems such as SAP & Oracle) or taking a company public on the stock exchange (by finding investors and banks to complete an initial public offering).

This type of management method works for projects which are:

  • Clear in scope (“we want to achieve this outcome by this time“)
  • Clear in design (“we know roughly what the perfect solution looks like and how it needs to be configured“)
  • Clear in requirements (“our business case shows exactly how much the project should cost, which resources and people are required and when the benefits should be realised“)
  • Clear in outcome (“we want the solution to deliver a specific series of outcomes once it has been implemented“)
  • Clear in demand (“customers or users have shown they want and will use the outcomes of the project, or did after similar previous projects”)
  • Clear in feasibility (“this type of solution has been successfully implemented previously“)

For those types of projects, effectively run project management can be the difference between a project which delivers on time and on budget, and those projects which seem to overshoot their budget by millions or billions of dollars.

This is why project management and the processes which support it (such as multi-year planning, business cases, risk management, change management and financial governance) form the backbone of most management frameworks in large companies. Management aims to make sure the existing business runs smoothly, and these traditional project management processes help enable that. Most commonly, traditional project management will continuously track how well a project is progressing and report this to management on a regular basis, while also having set milestones with dates where the status of the entire project can be reviewed.

Unfortunately, innovation projects usually have none of the above criteria.

This is because innovation by its definition is not clear on what the final outcome should be. The most accepted definition of innovation is:

Innovation is turning an idea into a solution which adds value to both the company and the customer.

The challenge here is that innovation projects usually start out with a vague idea of what might be possible or what might add value, but do not have clarity on what the solution is, what resources will be required to deliver it or whether people will even want it once it has been released.

More than that, the first version of the idea is often so rough that it will need to change multiple times before a version is found which might resonate with potential customers. The innovation will likely require a large number of iterations and changes throughout the project, requiring time and resources to complete. How many changes, and how often these take, is impossible to predict or know in advance.

And in the majority of cases, even when an innovation team puts in significant time, money and effort into design and development, there is always the chance that once it is released, it turns out that there is not enough demand for it for it to be profitable or viable.

After all, in order for any innovation to be successful, all of them must exhibit three basic criteria:

  • Desirability: Is there demand for this idea? Is there actually a problem which people would benefit from if it were solved, rather than just a solution looking for a problem?
  • Viability: Is it worth it? Will the company derive long-term benefit from the solution?
  • Feasibility: Can we do it? Is it possible for the company to actually accomplish this challenge?
balanced breakthrough model

The three criteria every idea needs to be successful

(You can shorten Desirability, Viability and Feasibility to DVF, which will become useful in a moment.)

Only if an idea or potential innovation can say “Yes” to all three questions is it going to have any chance of becoming a success.

Trying to force innovation projects through traditional project management processes

So, what happens when a company whose management team is using traditional project management principles to run the existing business, and they want their teams to come up with new innovations?

While generating ideas for new innovations is actually remarkably easy, let us look at what might happen to these innovation ideas next.

In order for the innovation idea to have any hope of progressing, it will need resources. Time, people, money, testing machinery, marketing budget, you name it, anything is possible.

Obviously, most companies do not have unlimited supplies of cash to throw at anyone with an idea. And any amount of money and time that is invested into one idea is not available for other ideas. So someone needs to make a decision about which ideas can get the resources needed to be turned into a project.

In almost all companies, this is done by management. After all, it is their duty to make sure the business is not wasteful and runs as smoothly as possible.

To do this, management usually want as much data to inform their decision as they can get. Especially data which would tell them if the project is likely to be not only beneficial, but successful.

And this is where management will likely ask the team who came up with the innovation idea to give them some more data and information in order to help their decision making. They will likely request this data in a standard format the company uses for all types of projects requiring investment, and most commonly this format is called a “Business Case“. Such as business case might ask some predictions about the project, such as:

  • What the problem to be solved is
  • What the solution is
  • What benefit it will bring to the company
  • How much it will cost in total to develop, configure and implement the solution
  • How long the project will take, from start to finish (often a full-scale project plan which can take months to complete)
  • What people and resources will be required throughout the whole project
  • An assessment of the risks of the project
  • Examples of where this exact solution has been implemented previously, to show that it works and is low risk

Once management has the business case, they can compare it against other business cases, and make a decision which ideas are better than others and deserve investment to be turned into a project.

To illustrate this, see the figure below, where 15 teams submitted business cases for ideas requiring resources (blue), and management selected the “best” business case (green) which is given the full budget they asked for to complete their project. Progress for this green project is then checked regularly at milestones. The other 14 ideas get no resources and die.

Representation of management selecting a single business case from many submitted to be given the resources and become a project

This is where the three biggest problems with using traditional project management techniques to assess innovation projects become clear:

  1. Innovation projects cannot provide this type of information: Innovative ideas start out in a rough state, and do not know exactly what the final solution will look like. Therefore, predicting the duration, cost or resources required for such a project from start to finish will be pure speculation. There is no existing example of how other companies produced the exact same innovation, and so there is also no reassurance that the project will be a success. Therefore, if the only way for the idea to get any resources to even begin is to produce a business case, the business case will either be:
    • Filled with gaps where the team does not know the answers (and this makes the business case look more risky compared to proposals which can fill out all criteria)
    • Filled with made-up and aspirational numbers which cannot be guaranteed (such as incredibly high revenue predictions, short durations and the lowest cost the team thinks will get the business case approved)
    • Filled out in real time, which will take months (or years) for the team to do as they essentially need to complete the project with no budget in order to validate what the solution would look like, how much it would cost etc
  2. It assumes a project which begins must use up all its budget according to the plan: In most companies, once a project has been given a budget, they are expected to deliver what they promised, which results in the team working nonstop on the project to make it a success. Nobody wants to be seen as a failure, so even if it becomes clear that the initial idea was not as good as people thought, the project may continue anyway due to the Sunk Cost fallacy, resulting in Zombie projects which are not delivering value but nobody involved wants to admit should die. I hardly ever see projects either deliver below their original budget, or voluntarily give up their budget.
  3. Psychology means decision makers do not like innovative ideas: Unfortunately, decades of research into psychology show us just how biased our brains are against creative & innovative ideas, and how they prefer safer ideas. More than which business cases might have the largest potential benefit, the management team making the decision will often look for projects which are likely to succeed, as supporting an idea which failed feels much worse than one which succeeded. There are many psychological factors which explain this, such as the fact that negative emotions are stronger than positive ones, we feel losses stronger than gains, we hate uncertainty and creative ideas trigger fear in decision makers. This is why management is usually more comfortable selecting “safer” projects, and innovation projects are likely to be seen as more risky due to the fact they cannot show how they have worked elsewhere.

In conclusion, let me summarise:

It is impossible for an innovation project to have an accurate or reliable business case or plan

As a result of all of these (and many other) issues, management is less likely to give innovation ideas the resources they need, compared to more operational business projects which are less likely to bring benefits, but also less likely to be unpredictable. Managers are punished more for supporting a failure than for delivering a larger benefit. Decision makers might believe that they want to support original, creative ideas, when in reality what they have been taught is to reduce risk and make “safe” choices. It is not their fault, this is just what several hundred years of management education has ingrained in leadership thinking.

Additionally, management might require time to collect business cases from all teams requesting resources before they are ready to compare all of them, prioritise them and make a final decision. This usually happens at set meetings, which might have several months in between. As a result, the teams who came up with the idea might be waiting months (or longer) for a decision as to whether they can proceed, stripping away momentum and enthusiasm for the idea and making it die a slow death by waiting.

Finally, even if an innovation project does get the funding it requested, it cannot be managed against the plan it submitted like other projects. This is because no innovation project ever goes according to the plan. There can be long stretches where it looks like very little progress is being made since the KPIs are not improving much. Sometimes, as feedback comes back on what customers do not want, it may even look like the project is moving backwards. This can give the impression that the innovation project is failing, when in reality it is learning.

So what can a company do in order to support innovation, but also manage it?

If the existing project management processes hinder innovation, does it mean that innovation cannot, or should not, be managed?

No. Quite the opposite.

In an effective organisation, there should be multiple types of management processes, each designed to help validate the progress of a specific type of project. This is what is known as an ambidextrous organisation, which is able to manage not only the existing business but explore new innovation opportunities as well.

Traditional project management is excellent at exploiting the existing business and helping it run smoothly.

But innovation requires a different, additional set of management principles.

What management methods work for different types of projects in a portfolio?

And in order to find which type of management makes sense across the company, it is helpful to think of all the projects the company is trying to manage simultaneously. This is called their project portfolio.

One tool I always use with clients to assess their project portfolio is called the Ambition Matrix, which aims to show what sort of outcome a project is aiming to produce for what sort of user / customer. It looks like this:

The Ambition Matrix shows the three types of innovation scope, from incremental core innovation to truly transformative innovation

The Ambition Matrix will help you identify what type of innovation a project is, based on what it is hoping to achieve. The two axes are which end users (customers) the innovation is for, and how different from the company’s current solutions the innovation is. In both cases, the word “emerging” essentially means “similar to the current, but slightly different”. In general, the three ambitions of innovation you can have are:

  • Core: Incremental Innovations which optimise your existing products for existing customers
  • Adjacent: Expanding from core existing business into “new to the company” businesses, which could be primarily new offerings for the same customers, or new customers for the current offerings (or new similar products for new similar customers)
  • Transformational: Breakthrough innovations for markets that don’t yet exist in the business (or even the world)

Each project in a company’s portfolio would be plotted on these two axes. You can either do this as a bubble graph, or even better is by printing / drawing the matrix on a large piece of paper and having the teams place each project as a Post-It note in the correct location.

One of the reasons I find the Ambition Matrix such a valuable tool to visualise a company’s innovation portfolio is that it brings to light exactly how a company is trying to invest in its future. If a company is investing primarily in core or incremental innovations to its existing products, then it might miss opportunities to find new customers, or new revenue streams for the future.

The exercise is also a valuable reality check. Plotting what each project is hoping to achieve also strips away any chance of the project calling itself “transformational” when it really is not. I have worked with many clients who were disappointed when they saw how many of their projects which were being described as transformational internally, were in fact just incremental core innovations. Projects such as upgrading old IT systems are a classic example I have seen often.

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If you want to talk with Nick Skillicorn (founder of Improvides Innovation Consulting) about assessing and prioritising your company’s innovation portfolio with the Ambition Matrix, click here to book a free strategy video call, or if you prefer email click here to contact him directly.

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Another reason to use the Ambition Matrix is to identify which management methods are most appropriate for various types of innovation projects.

Yes, even within innovation, there are different ways to manage projects effectively.

For example, some innovation really is only slight incremental change to the core operations of a business. It might be a large, expensive project (like an IT upgrade), but it is not for new customers and does not bring a new customer solution. For these projects, some traditional project management processes and methods like Waterfall actually do make sense.

Similarly, if an innovation is not aiming to change or improve the current solution, and instead is just looking to bring it to new or emerging customer markets, then a focus on Sales & Marketing is probably the right place to invest resources.

But for innovation ideas and projects which are aiming to improve or produce new solutions and offerings, more innovation-focused management methods are required. These are mapped against the Ambition Matrix here:

Which management methods make most sense for various types of innovation projects

For a lot of innovation projects which are looking to improve the company’s available solutions, such as new features for existing products or better processes, then Agile Project Management is likely to be one of the most effective management methods. It allows for rapid iterations, prioritisation on delivery of features and a degree of customer feedback. This is why Agile is becoming so popular for teams which need to rapidly iterate, such as in software-development or design teams.

However, for innovation projects which aim to add completely new value to customers, whether this is in bringing improved solutions to new customers, or even creating solutions which are significantly different than the business’ current solutions, there is the need to rapidly validate whether the project team is making progress against the three core DVF criteria (desirability, viability, feasibility).

Otherwise, the project team may be quickly making progress in developing the solution, but have no idea if the solution will work once it hits the market. This can lead to a large amount of wasted time, energy, money and trust.

And this is where the new innovation management method I will teach you today comes into play.

It is called Lean Innovation, Validation & Execution (L.I.V.E.), and it is a completely new way to manage innovation projects & budgets which aim to provide a simple to understand and consistent way to assess progress for all projects in a company’s innovation portfolio. The name comes from incorporating the best aspects of Lean Startup, as well as management principles focused on validating and executing innovation projects.

It is designed to be used by any innovation team building new ventures, product categories, business models, businesses or anything else fundamentally new.

Best of all, it flips the concept of a business case on its head, while still providing leadership and decision makers with an exceptionally clear indication of how a project is progressing and what it needs to do next.

Want to learn more?

Let me show you exactly how L.I.V.E. works:

L.I.V.E. (Lean Innovation, Validation & Execution)

L.I.V.E. (Lean Innovation, Validation & Execution) is a method to manage an entire portfolio of innovation projects in a consistent way.

The main premise is the opposite of a traditional business case model.

In traditional project management, many projects will propose a business case. All business cases will be compared, and one or a small number of projects will be selected to get their entire budget and proceed. The expectation is that all of the business cases given a budget will then proceed until completion.

However, in innovation, the fundamental truth is that not every idea is a good idea. Some are more likely to turn into successful new ventures, products or solutions than others. And some ideas are just for solutions which end up not solving anyone’s problems, and therefore having no demand.

But the other fundamental truth is that you cannot predict which ideas are good ones and which are not until they are validated and tested.

So how do you do this?

You set up an innovation pipeline, which aims to make it as easy, fast and low-cost to test lots of ideas simultaneously, kill those ideas which do not show promise, and then allocate more resources which have validated that they have more potential.

innovation pipeline gif

By having several rounds of stage gates where some projects are killed and the more promising ones progress, you end up with a funnel of ideas which allows many to begin, and the ones which have already shown promise with customers to be the ones which end up being launched. In essence, you have removed a significant amount of the risk of failure by running a number of fast, cheap yet effective experiments.

The major difference between this and traditional project management is that instead of each project having their own budget and resources, instead the innovation budget is allocated to the overall stages and phases that multiple projects are going through.

The budget for each L.I.V.E. phase should not be the full amount to develop and complete the project, instead it should be enough to get enough information and validation in one phase to see if it makes sense to continue to the next phase.

Instead of giving an idea a million dollars and two years for a solution to be fully developed, why not only give the team $5000 dollars and a few weeks to validate if there is even a problem to be solved first.

However, what is also important is that each project is judged against the same criteria as to whether or not it is making progress. This way, you can have trust in the governance of the projects, and prevent an innovation project being allowed to continue when it is performing worse than other projects, but it is the “favorite” of one of the senior leadership or there is another reason why management does not want to kill the project.

This is why L.I.V.E. is based on a 3x(8+2) checklist system, which are the same for absolutely every innovation project:

  • 3 specific Phases
  • 8 Questions to validate for Desirability, Viability and Feasibility
  • 2 Questions to validate whether the project should be prioritised further

So how does it work in practice?

First, let us understand the 3 Phases every innovation project would go through. Phase 0 is just the idea being generated, but then the actual project begins. The phases are:

  1. Problem / Solution fit: validate if there really is a challenge which customers would be interested in having solved
  2. First market experiment: validate if customers show interest in a non-functional MVP of a potential solution
  3. Pilot / Customer test: validate whether customers would be willing to pay for a working solution

The benefit of splitting the work of the project into these phases is that:

  • The expected outcomes of each phase are crystal clear, so teams know what they are working towards
  • The sequence is designed to remove the least-successful projects from the funnel as quickly as possible, giving more resources to the better-performing projects
  • It emphasises speed of learning and validation instead of lower-value adding activities
  • It significantly speeds up and reduces the costs of experimenting. Phase 1 can often be completed in a few weeks (sometimes even one week!) and for a few thousand dollars instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Individual team members can move between projects and concepts rapidly.
    • In fact, this is heavily encouraged, so that team members do not believe that their success in the company is tied to delivering a single mega-project.
    • For some of the early phases, it might even be possible for experienced team members to support on more than one project simultaneously. After all, different skills will be required during different phases.

For each phase, there is a checklist of 10 questions which every innovation must positively validate before it is allowed to proceed to the next phase.

In fact, the checklist of 10 question criteria I am about to show you should work for over 90% of teams without any further changes. You can use these as a template today. (Occasionally, I do work with companies who want the wording adjusted slightly to fit their company style, and rarely there might be companies who want to change one or two of the questions. If you want me to come and work with your team to customise and implement the method, then contact me and let us see if there is a fit.)

Whether or not these questions have been validated happens at three stage gates. I will share the exact questions for Stage Gate 1 below to show you exactly how it works.

Depending on how many of the questions have been validated during the preceding phase will determine what should happen to the innovation project.

So let us go through an example, using the actual L.I.V.E. validation checklist criteria using the 10 questions which every team needs to answer for Phase 1:

You will notice for Stage Gate 1, there are just three questions the innovation project team needs to answer about the idea’s desirability and feasibility, and two of its viability. These are the questions for which the project team needs to perform experiments and gather validation data during Phase 1. That is it.

At this point, the teams will likely have a hypothesis for a concept they want to test, but no specific solution yet.

Ok, so let us go through each question criteria to be asked at Stage Gate 1 and understand what it aims to validate:

  1. Desirability: The challenge to be solved can be clearly articulated in 15 seconds or less
    • So many innovation projects fail because they cannot actually communicate what they are hoping to achieve. The importance here is to be able to explain the challenge which a potential solution will help solve (not what the benefits of the solution are, since this has not been designed yet)
    • If a team cannot explain the challenge in 15 seconds, then they do not understand it well enough themselves
    • The communication should be able to clearly state not only what the challenge is, but who specifically might be feeling this challenge
    • If you can clearly articulate a challenge in 15 seconds, you are more likely to be able to keep the attention of not only the decision maker, but eventually the potential customer as well
  2. Desirability: Customers validate that they have frustrations with the challenge
    • Validate with actual potential customers that this challenge really exists for them, and is not just an imaginary challenge which the project team hopes that someone feels
    • This can be done by observing people in the wild (such as at their place of work, supermarkets, homes) and asking them about their experiences, or through effective online landing pages which describe the challenge
    • First hand experience can also be used is the challenge experienced was real
    • Observations and discussions should be as unbiased as possible
    • Potentially, validation is also indicated if enough people want to find out more about a concept in question 3, as this would indicate that the description of the challenge up until then has resonated with them.
  3. Desirability: Potential customers wanted to find out more about the concept
    • When given the opportunity to find out more information about a concept to address that challenge, potential customers do an action which shows interest
      • Active + : This action might be clicking a button to find out more, entering their email address, phoning a hotline to speak with someone, watching a second video in a series etc.
      • Passive – : This action is NOT things like taking a leaflet (out of politeness) or saying “sounds like a good idea, good luck”
    • Nowadays, much of this validation can be done extremely quickly and cheaply using online tools such as drag-and-drop landing pages and simple videos
  4. Viability: There is an opportunity to offer different perceived value compared to current offerings & competition
    • Indicate what other solutions already exist in the market
    • The concept is able to provide value even when compared to existing offerings, such as by being
      • Simpler
      • More customisable
      • Cheaper
      • Faster
      • Additional features
      • Reliable
      • Scalable
      • etc
    • Importantly, the criteria is validated is the potential for differentiation exists. This is not the time to go into detailed design to prove how your solution is better
  5. Viability: A business model to support the offering long-term is possible and attractive
    • Is there potentially a way to make money in this category?
    • Based on other offerings in the market, or interesting business models taken from other markets, is it likely that there are profit margins available?
    • Potential business models include: One-off sale of product, subscription, sell advertising, affiliates, licensing, patents etc
  6. Feasibility: The concept is technically feasible with existing technology
    • Is the fundamental technology or resources required to develop a solution already available in the market?
    • Are there people or partners who know how to use the technology who could help us or join the team?
    • For example, some scientific breakthroughs like graphene or quantum computers have amazing potential business models once they can be produced at industrial scales, but are unlikely to be unlocked by this innovation team
    • If the technology is still in the research phase, this is unlikely to be scalable in the near term, and this is not the management method
  7. Feasibility: The company understands the required capabilities to deliver the concept at scale
    • Capabilities such as being able to program code, handle logistics, manufacture, outsource, customer service, marketing, data analytics etc
    • Important: The company does not need to have these capabilities in-house yet (although that would be an advantage). They just need to know what they might be
  8. Feasibility: The concept aligns with our corporate and innovation strategy
    • The concept does not go against any strategic criteria of the company
    • The concept helps move the company and the innovation team into the right strategic direction
      • Some concepts might seem great on paper, but implementing them would actually go against strategic decisions which the leadership team have already made

Exactly how they choose to perform the experiments and develop the answers is completely up to them. But they will only have a limited amount of time to complete the phase, so they need to be effective and creative in getting ways to validate if the idea in its current hypothesis is heading in the right direction.

You will have noticed some white holes in each criteria as well. That is where the simple scoring system for validating comes in.

Whether or not they manage to validate that the criteria is based on a traffic light system:

  • Green: Criteria has been validated as true / complete. Can proceed
  • Amber: Criteria has been partially validated, but requires changes or pivot before validated as true & complete. More time & different attempt required.
  • Red: Criteria has been validated as false / highly unlikely. Advise against proceeding

These ratings are the heart of the L.I.V.E method. Teams should be honest about every question for the phase.

If a question is validated as green, it is already on the right track.

If it is only partially validated and is amber, then that aspect of the concept needs be rethought as it will lead to significant problems down the line. This might be called a pivot, and is extremely common in innovation projects. In fact, getting amber validations shows the process and your team is working effectively. Every innovation will change and be different from the initial ideas and concepts the team originally came up with, so celebrate the amber questions.

Red validations on the other hand are a stop sign. If any criteria is validated as false, it means that something fundamental in that concept means it cannot work. This might be customers validating they do not feel the fundamental challenge, the technology not being available, or there being no way to make a viable business model. In these cases, it might make sense to take the learnings from the project so far, but reallocate the resources to other projects.

So how do these questions and criteria help manage the projects?

When the project comes up to its stage gate review, based on the colours of each traffic light for all DVF questions, one of a few things should happen to the project:

If all the questions have been validated as green, then the project is showing good potential to progress, and can pass to the next prioritisation

A successfully passed stage gate 1

If any (including just a single) question is amber, then that criteria has not yet been brought to a stage where it can be validated and might cause the project to fall apart in the future. The project team might be asked to retry, and given a little extra time (maybe only a week or two) in order to change some part of the concept and see if that validates more effectively.

A failed stage gate 1

If any (including just a single) question is red, then the project is ultimately likely to fail. The recommendation here is to kill the project and reallocate the resources to other projects, and figure out what was not valiated and why in order to learn from it

If the project has validated all 8 of their DVF questions as green, then there is the final question of whether it should proceed.

But why would it not proceed? Surely if it is green, it means that it makes sense to keep going, right?

Yes, but in every innovation pipeline and portfolio, there will be multiple potential projects. And in every company, there will not just be a limited amount of budget available (which in this case is not actually the issue), but also a limited number of skilled and talented people to execute on the projects.

After all, L.I.V.E. is not just about validating ideas, it is about executing those ideas.

While phase 1 of an innovation project can be completed very quickly with a small team, phases 2 and especially 3 require more resources and more time.

Therefore, at each stage, there are also two criteria on Execution which need to be discussed with not only the projects teams, but the management team overlooking the stage gates.

  • Execution: There are resources with the required capabilities available to prioritise the next phase of this project, or they will be recruited / developed immediately
    • This means there are resources who can prioritise a sensible amount of their time and focus on to the next phase (2) of this project
    • There will be people with different skills and experience required in Phase 2 than the small team who could perform phase 1. For example, phase 2 might require people with more design, coding, stakeholder management or financial scenario planning skills
    • If the management team determines that this project should proceed and those people capabilities are not currently available in the company, the management team agrees the people budget to recruit them specifically
    • If people with those skills do not exist in the company, or cannot be brought in through recruitment or partnerships, the project cannot and should not continue. The project should be parked until those resources do exist, and the current resources reallocated until then.
  • Execution: Compared to all other projects requiring the resources of Phase 2, this project is a priority to get them
    • Based on the limited amount of resources, and compared to all the other green concepts also requiring resources, should this project get those resources?

Once a project team has a green traffic light in all 10 question criteria, it means the project should proceed to the next stage.

I know I have just spent several thousand words describing this first stage of the L.I.V.E. innovation management method, but that does not mean that it is complicated.

After all, at its core, the innovation team only needs to answer 10 clearly-articulated and consistent questions for their stage of work.

In fact, one thing which innovation teams love is that by having clarity on what they need to deliver, it allows them to focus their creativity, skills and ingenuity on actually making progress on executing these ideas. It also removes a lot of the stigma around failure, since the definition for success is the same for every idea and every team and known well in advance.

Finally, many of the validation criteria can actually be completed very quickly. It is about bringing clarity to thinking and communication.

So there you have it. That is exactly how teams can use the first of 3 phases of the L.I.V.E. innovation management method.

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If you want to talk with Nick Skillicorn (founder of Improvides Innovation Consulting and creator of the L.I.V.E. method) about how the L.I.V.E. method could work for your team, click here to book a free strategy video call, or if you prefer email click here to contact him directly.

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What happens in Stage Gates 2 and 3?

Phases 2 and 3 also have their own set of 8 DVF questions, and 2 Execution questions.

Once again, these are the only questions which the innovation team needs to answer to validate the First Market Experiment (MVP) and the Pilot / Customer test, and they follow the same progress criteria as the ones I just outlined in Stage Gate 1.

The benefits which teams get from using L.I.V.E. for all 3 phases of their innovation projects include:

  • Lower costs for innovation overall and lower costs per project
  • Faster delivery of successful projects
  • Faster decisions on which projects should be prioritised (and which should be stopped)
  • Clarity on what teams should focus working on, without stifling their creativity
  • Clear validation of project progress (which is impossible with other innovation management methods)
  • Reduced risk of projects failing once they are in pilot stage
  • Higher success rate that innovations actually have a sustainable business model to make the company profit
  • Alignment across all teams involved in designing, developing and implementing the innovations
  • Higher trust between the innovation teams, management and leadership
  • Higher likelihood of the operations team actually accepting and implementing the innovation once it is developed
  • Lower stress for everyone involved in the reporting and management process every week / month / quarter / year
  • Happier customers with an innovation they love actually completed

But if you are interested in finding out more about managing phases 2 and 3, it makes more sense for us to do that together in a workshop or sprint, as they go into more tactical detail.

Now I know how you probably feel after all of this information:

drinking from a firehose

Yes, it can be a lot to take in.

Especially as it is completely different to how many managers were taught to think about managing their teams and projects.

But that is what I am here for.

If you would like to get the benefits and value of the L.I.V.E. innovation method for your teams, get in touch with me and let us see if it makes sense for us to work together.

Pricing if we were to work together

Let me set some context.

When I was in Australia working with the world’s largest Management Consulting company as an innovation specialist, the prices charged for insights, advice and implementation for innovation projects was at the very top end of the market.

For example, for one client I managed a two week Design Thinking Sprint where my team and I upskilled their internal team in innovation thinking for a single specific challenge they were facing. For this two week project the client paid $80,000.

In another example, a different client wanted myself and our innovation partner to run a one-day leadership workshop on developing their innovation capabilities. This one-day workshop was charged at $25,000.

Longer term innovation projects were charged even higher.

So you can see the fees which the world’s largest consultancies charge for this type of innovation transformation.

And clients are more than happy to pay these fees for a simple reason: By improving their teams’ actual innovation performance, and the speed at which their innovation projects could progress afterwards, it delivered so much more value than what they struggled to achieve alone beforehand.

Now, since nowadays I run my own projects independently, and I can choose the client I work with, my fees are lower than the world’s largest Management Consulting firm. Yes, I proudly charge much higher fees than many other firms who might run a more general “innovation workshop” or give motivational speeches. That is because my focus is on your company actually achieving your innovation ambitions faster, cheaper and at a lower risk. I want to help you achieve that.

So, are you interested in having your company experience the benefits of faster, less risky and more successful innovation projects?

Then click on the link below, get in touch, and let us see how I could help take your innovation teams’ success rates to the next level:

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If you want to talk with Nick Skillicorn (founder of Improvides Innovation Consulting and creator of the L.I.V.E. method) about how the L.I.V.E. method could work for your team, click here to book a free strategy video call, or if you prefer email click here to contact him directly.

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.