We frequently help large companies run Innovation Sprints to shape and test new business ideas. This helps them kickstart innovation or the re-invention of existing business units, and it helps them reduce the risk related to new ideas. Here are the five ingredients that are crucial to a successful sprint.
Time: One of the most critical ingredients is of course the time that people commit to an Innovation Sprint. We shouldn’t even need to mention this, but somehow people rarely carve out sufficient time to do innovation properly. It’s often just added on top of a busy day job. However, what you put in is what you get out.
Autonomy & Speed: The second ingredient is autonomy and legitimacy--the ability to make fast decisions, and the legitimacy to really innovate. In an Innovation Sprint the main goal is to shape, test, and adapt ideas until we’ve found sufficient evidence that they will work. Thus, most decisions are reversible and should be made quickly.
Access to Customers & Assets: Third is access to company resources like intellectual property (IP), brand, skills, and customers. Existing customers are one of the most important assets an established company has that start-ups don’t. Innovators need access to them, so they can “get out of the building”, actually talk to them, and run business experiments with them.
Prototyping Resources: Another important requirement for success is the access to prototyping resources. This could be as simple as access to design resources to quickly prototype a brochure to test a product with customers. Or it could be more sophisticated, like access to an IT team that is dedicated to mocking up digital prototypes for innovation teams.
Skills: Finally, innovation (like entrepreneurship) is a profession with its own set of skills. Unfortunately, it is rarely seen as such. People who manage businesses need to excel at different things than people who innovate. In innovation one needs the ability to shape ideas, see patterns (in the market), deal with ambiguity, and rapidly test, throw-away, and adapt ideas. People get better at innovation on their third or fourth project. Unfortunately, we see most teams coming from their day job and going back to their day job, which means we mostly deal with first-timers that are prevented from evolving to professional innovators.