Are You Innovating As Fast As The World Is Changing? - The Need for Speed

Expert: Simone AhujaCurator: Sugath Warnakulasuriya

Dr. Simone Ahuja is an innovation strategist who helps large firms move the right ideas to execution through #intrapreneurship #frugal innovation #agile #technology. MIT advisor & columnist.

01 // The speed of change: what’s the difference between the context inside and outside of large companies?

02 // What are the easiest ways to get to start moving faster?

03 // How do you navigate gatekeepers and those minimizing risks?

// Summary

In the face of a disruptive marketplace, large corporations accustomed to years of stability and revenue growth are seeking out ways to innovate – yet their advances often can’t keep up with the speed of global change.

In conversation with Sugath Warnakulasuriya, Simone Ahuja outlines ways to apply faster moving innovation strategies in the course of an organization’s across-the-board transformation, shifting from a “command and control” process to a “sense and respond” approach.

Why is it so difficult to move fast in a large organization?

A lack of knowledge about how to move fast along with fear and legacy processes make moving fast very challenging in large firms. But speed and agility are more important than ever. Why? It’s the new normal. Today’s end users expect speed, as does Wall Street, which is increasingly looking for companies that can adapt quickly to anticipate future disruptions, says Simone.

Accelerate with small, speedy teams and experiments

An innovation team driven by experimentation can leave assumptions behind and uncover new definitions of high value – both for the end user and for the organization. By rapidly producing a prototype or proof-of-concept, a team can can help holdouts and doubters come around while producing something that connects deeply to the end user.

Face gatekeeper pushback directly, then enlist them

First, acknowledge the importance of gatekeepers from legal, compliance, accounting and other essential departments – mitigating risk is essential to the firm’s long-term survival. Then, enlist them. Enrolling key gatekeepers early on means you’ve got department “champions” to contribute their expertise to your team. They might pivot from throwing up roadblocks to showing unexpected creativity in solving your problems.

If the effects of an innovation project poses too great a threat to the core brand, consider establishing an umbrella organization or a separate legal entity altogether. And last but not least, request a clear, strong and timely signal from senior, C-level leadership on the importance of the speedy innovation program.

“Intrapreneurship is closely connected to frugal innovation, since it’s rooted in moving quickly via experimentation – and thinking about high value solutions produced at a relatively low cost.”

To find the most effective ways to go “fast and frugal”:

Overcome internal resistance by employing new approaches such as “lean experimentation” that move ideas forward quickly.
Managers and senior leaders must provide support and air cover for those who are moving quickly.
When walls and silos are broken down, leaders must trust that innovators will do the right thing. Meanwhile, innovators must trust that they have support from leadership.

Simplicity meets speed: An example from Simone’s practice

The problem
A medical equipment team was creating a higher-value, lower-cost medical device for use in major surgery.
The quick experiment
The team asked operators to examine their medical device “prototype” to find out which features added the most value. It turned out that most operators only used two or three of the device’s dozens of knobs, levers and screens.
The takeaway
Because fast and frugal innovation focused on simplicity and end user needs, it shrunk development time, slashed costs (and complexity) of the new device and demonstrated the merits of experimenting and prototyping in innovation.