Many organizations design explicit pathways
for different types of innovation. Pathways can extend to include open innovation and customer cocreation models as well as corporate venture capital and new growth incubators. Any time
there is a desire to invest resources in bringing
an innovation to market, a pathway will emerge
to make it happen. Pathways should be made explicit by documenting the desired set of
steps that an innovation should take from
initial idea to implementation.
While formal processes are usually what organizations point to when asked why they are successful, it is not uncommon to discover that high-value innovations resulted from ad hoc, informal and even hidden pathways that succeeded in spite of the organization’s best attempts to bring discipline and repeatability to the process. To be successful with innovation, businesses must develop a comprehensive understanding of how innovation actually gets done, inclusive of both formal and informal mechanisms. At the same time, they should also focus on optimizing pathway operations to reduce time to market, eliminate time wasted on low-value activities and more quickly shut down efforts that are unlikely to bear fruit.
Even the best-designed pathways can fail to
get results. When this happens, the cause is
often related to ineffective pathway governance. Constructive pathway governance requires senior leaders to recognize that many existing processes designed to manage risk or create efficiencies in the core business are wholly inappropriate when applied to higher-risk opportunities. Even if well intentioned, they often increase the burden
(and slow down the pace) of the innovation
team to the point that the strategic risk of
inaction (or slow action) far outweighs any
risks inherent in the proposed action.