When it comes to innovation projects inside large companies, the biggest problem is rarely having enough money around. What’s really missing in innovation is adequate time investments. People tasked with searching for and validating new ideas are often expected to do this on top of their day job. The rule of thumb is simple: the more you want your people to seriously search for, shape, test and de-risk new ideas, the more time you need to give them.
If you’re running idea competitions in the early stages, part-time teams need to do some light validation. Leadership can then select some candidates for further exploration based on early market evidence, not just pure opinion. For this type of task you should give teams about 20% of their time to explore, test, and iterate ideas over 8-10 weeks. Out of 10 ideas, 5 won’t go anywhere, 3 will be OK, and 2 might have real potential.
In later stages, when you choose to really pursue one or two promising business ideas, you need to give teams the full-time effort to de-risk the idea. Without a proper investment in time, innovation teams will never be able to properly de-risk and explore a new business idea.
We believe workloads and expectations in innovation need to be much more clearly aligned: if you expect a team to take a big idea, generate strong good evidence, and de-risk the idea, then you have to give them 100% of the time do so. The more testing and evidence you want around a new potential business idea, the more time the team will need to validate or invalidate.
Companies need to stop asking busy people with a “day job” to do serious innovation on the side. You don’t ask people to do accounting, marketing, or finance on the side. Why should inventing the future be any different? It’s a profession with its own skillset, tools, and processes.