I’m the CTO (and co-founder) of InnoStreams. Today, we are launching our exciting software product to provide purpose-built decision support for the actions, conversations and decisions that drive success in the commercialization of ideas. Our goal is to be the leading enterprise platform for Go-NoGo decisions, with process rigor support to drive actions, purposeful collaboration support for conversations, and real-time visibility and transparency into progress.

This series of blog posts will dive deeper into what we are building into our software and how we are thinking about different aspects of our platform. But let me kick off this series with why we are building yet another innovation platform.

Over the last twenty years, there has been an intense corporate focus on innovation, driven initially by management consulting, and then supported by a variety of software tools that have sprung up over the last decade. Much progress has been made. And yet, my conversations with customers point to a vexing paradox:

Our customers: “We have focused a lot of energy on creating a culture of ideas; our innovation program is not generating the value we expect”

Two major issues in common across these conversations is that (a) while perceived effort and investment in innovation is high, it continues to remain a want, and execution always takes higher priority with most organizations; (b) this focus on idea discovery assumes that once the great idea has been discovered, all the usual project management discipline around project execution can be vigorously applied to drive the idea to commercialization.

I believe these are severely flawed notions.

Software is eating the world

Various surveys and studies have been busily documenting some key trends:

  • The average lifecycle a typical S&P 500 company is shrinking
  • The pace of innovation is accelerating, driving a more intense leadership focus on return on talent as opposed to the more traditional return on capital
  • Software advances are rapidly shrinking product lifecycles across a variety of industries, driving greater vitality needsi

In short, a laissez faire approach will increasingly penalize companies and executives. Innovation is no longer a want, it’s a NEED.

The Commercialization Chasm in Innovation

Most large companies now have implemented a variety of idea discovery approaches – from brainstorming sessions, hackathons and pitch contests to partnership and co-investment models. Software tools like Spigit (of which our CEO Paul Pluschkell was the founder/CEO) apply crowdsourced workflows and crowd science to the innovation process to produce more actionable ideas and engaged employees. But what happens next? Implementing standard process and project management to push innovation ideas forward does not have a good track record of commercialization success.

Why is this so hard?

Fundamentally, innovation is a process of exploration, learning and managing a portfolio of innovation opportunities as opposed to the more structured new product development model. Good product development practices flow from well-defined inputs (strategic alignment, sound business cases, investment rationale, resource prioritization and commitments, solution plans) followed by tight discipline around execution, portfolio tracking and management. Unfortunately these are a poor fit for developing fledgling innovation ideas. Innovation involves

  • A high degree of uncertainty about what to build, why to build it, how to build it
  • High level of risk (and potential opportunity cost) in managing resource and investment commitments across competing opportunities
  • The need to align and engage diverse stakeholders in a timely fashion to gain the support needed to drive commitments into executing the project at scale

The old ways of managing and tracking projects and the associated tools are too heavyweight and cumbersome. We have found that the best innovation commercialization efforts are built on well managed process, and need support and championing from exceptionally committed leaders. Sustainability is a common issue in such programs, even though they do sometimes lead to well-advertised success.

InnoStreams was founded on the premise that software eats everything (including process). We did not see a software tool in the marketplace that aligns to our insights based on our own personal experiences with innovation. So we built it.

Welcome to InnoStreams!

ivitality index: a commonly used innovation metric (percentage of revenues from new products introduced in the last 3-5 years)