With 2022 almost behind us, a lot of companies and teams are planning their next steps for 2023.
This is especially true for venture and innovation teams, who let’s face it, many of whom had a very tough 2022.
With the global economy stalling and fear of an upcoming recession, many companies have significantly slowed their investments into new innovation teams.
2023 could turn out to be one of the hardest for innovation and leadership teams in decades…
… or, with the right focused effort, it could be one of the best.
Here are the top 5 things your company should plan to focus on in order to make 2023 its most successful and innovative year yet.
1. Ensure everyone in the organisation still feels creative
Everyone is born creative.
And yet less than half of adults do not feel like they are creative anymore.
This results in hundreds of millions of employees no longer feeling like they can contribute value or new ideas to their jobs, and billions in lost revenue and growth each year.
Yet with the right information and training this problem can be easily fixed.
After all, science has shown us that creativity can be improved over time, even if people feel like they have lost it or they were never creative in the first place (which is not true).
Here are just some of the things you can plan for your teams in 2023 to help them produce their best ideas ever:
- Assess whether the company and the various teams have a psychologically safe environment in which to share their fears and ideas
- If you have an event and are planning to book an inspirational speaker, ensure that the topic highlights how creativity can be enhanced, at any age
- For teams which are struggling to overcome risk-averse behaviour, organise a workshop to help them identify the biases and behaviours which may be holding back their creativity
2. Get alignment and clarity about your success criteria
Innovation projects often fail because innovation teams, management, leadership and operations are not aligned on what success actually looks like.
As a result, you might have one team developing ideas which have no chance of being scaled or implemented, resulting in huge amounts of wasted time, money and effort. Not to mention a steady erosion of the company’s motivation to continue investing in innovation.
However, there is a simple scientifically backed principle which shows why some innovation teams continue to perform at their best even during tough times, while others quickly give up when things get rough.
It is called the Progress Principle, and it shows that if everyone feels like the work they are doing is helping move a project forward and make progress, they will feel joy and even become more creative over time.
And one of the most important ways to have facilitate this in your projects is to ensure you have clarity and alignment from the very beginning on what the definition of success is for all teams.
The challenge is that for all innovation projects, it is impossible to know what the final solution or target KPIs will be once all the investigation, design and iteration is complete. Therefore, it does not make sense to have the success criteria be a specific design, budget, business case or set of KPIs at the beginning.
Instead, the best way to set success criteria is to agree on how progress will be validated and measured over the span of the project.
In my experience, the best way to achieve this is to have a framework which sets a standard set of validation criteria which can be regularly checked during stage gates, which brings consistency and alignment across teams and projects. The framework I developed and use with clients is called the Lean Innovation Validation & Execution management (L.I.V.E.) framework, and is designed to speed up and reduce risk for a huge variety of types of innovation projects.
[If your company is interested, the L.I.V.E. innovation framework can be taught to teams in a simple series of workshops, and implemented quickly within 1 – 2 multi-week sprints]
If your company is not already using standard validation criteria for new and existing innovation projects, this would probably be the most value-adding activity to focus on completing in Q1 2023.
3. Ensure your portfolio is balanced according to your upcoming strategy
It used to be conventional wisdom that the ideal innovation portfolio would be around 70% incremental, 20% adjacent and 10% transformational projects.
However, recent research has shown that the most successful innovators already have a wildly different portfolio mix, and that the ideal mix will depend on what industry your company is in as well.
Nonetheless, the major issue which needs to be considered looking forward to 2023 is what might happen in the wider market.
If there is indeed a recession coming our way, this will impact the majority of companies. Either their revenue and sales will be affected, their supply chains might change, customer demand or requirements may change or financing and credit available will impact money to invest internally.
Many companies may even have to let staff go in order to save costs, and many will not survive at all and go bankrupt.
As a result, the ideal innovation portfolio will look very different than it did just a few years ago for the majority of companies. And this innovation portfolio will need to align to the new corporate strategy into a consistent innovation strategy.
Some companies may need to reduce investments into transformational, long-term innovation projects in order to focus on more incremental innovations which are bringing in the majority of revenue during these times.
Other companies may decide that this is the strategically correct time to shed some of the previous product / service lines in order to focus on higher-value adjacent and transformational new business models or new markets.
Both of these extremes, and every unique option in between, will require an innovation portfolio mix which is appropriate for the corporate strategy.
[If your company wants to assess its options around its innovation portfolio, or even just get clarity on its current innovation portfolio makeup, bringing in an unbiased and neutral external consultant like myself can make the process faster and much less stressful]
4. Make progress on improving your corporate innovation capabilities & ambidexterity
Sometimes, the reason why innovation is not working in a company is that the people are simply missing the skills and capabilities required across the various departments.
Now, I am not saying that everyone needs the stereotypical skills of an “innovator”.
The types of skills and capabilities which other training firms sell, such as “design thinking“, “agile management“, “brainstorming” or “customer journey mapping”.
Because the mistake that most companies make is not realising that different people & teams need different skills and capabilities to fulfill their specific role in innovation within the company.
And these capabilities will be different from someone inside an innovation project team, to someone managing multiple innovation projects, to a leader helping to set the innovation strategy and provide resources.
In fact, there are 23 unique innovation capabilities required to enable successful innovation in a company, and not every individual needs to have all of them.
All of these 3 Dimensions of Innovation need to have their capabilities spread across the organisation in order for innovation to flourish there.
This is especially true for a company aiming to be ambidextrous: able to exploit the current business offerings while also exploring innovations for the future.
If your company wants to ensure that all 23 capabilities are present, or if you want to assess whether there are any gaps, bringing in an external consultant like myself can be a great first step.
5. Upskill your workforce
And finally, the most obvious thing for anyone in HR, Learning & People Development or Leadership, is that no matter what the coming year brings, it will be vital to continue upskilling your people.
This is especially true for all of the skills and capabilities required to be creative high-value ideas and successfully execute innovation, rather than just generating a large number of low-value ideas which go nowhere.
After all, creativity and innovation have been consistently voted as the most important skills for companies to grow in the future, and are only becoming more important.
Fortunately, if there is one positive aspect that has come out of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been companies and people becoming comfortable with the technologies required for remote working and collaboration.
This has for the first time enabled teams to bring in expertise and training from around the world virtually, instead of having to fly not only a trainer but the entire team to a specific site for training. This enables more frequent and flexible training throughout the year, based on a team and individual’s specific needs.
There will still be value in on-site workshops and training, but these will likely be most applicable for workshops which thrive on team collaboration, whereas learning can now be successfully done in a hybrid or remote setting.
So whatever your L&D plan for the coming year is, make sure that some training and workshops for innovation and creativity are the first things you book.
Your team members, leaders and customers will thank you for it.
Fortunately, if you are looking for assistance in any of these, I am here to be your partner. Whether you are looking for anything from a one-off workshop or keynote speech, to ongoing high-value consulting or project management.
After all, I have spent more than the last 17 years helping companies just like yours assess, plan and deliver their most challenging, innovative and strategic projects.
What to do next: Have a look at my innovation and creativity services by clicking here, and if you would like to organise a free strategy call on the best way for your team to meet your 2023 innovation ambitions, click here to schedule a video call with me using my online scheduler.
I look forward to hearing from you.
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