Three Tips to Beat the Innovation Reaper!

Innovation has a Grim Reaper, the good old fashioned Business Case!I've often poked fun at the bureaucratic processes that kill innovation. But I've also stopped short of offering an alternative. Innovation needs a faster approval cycle, this article proposes Business Canvases as one alternative.
Innovation has a Grim Reaper, the good old fashioned Business Case!I’ve often poked fun at the bureaucratic processes that kill innovation. But I’ve also stopped short of offering an alternative. Innovation needs a faster approval cycle, this article proposes Business Canvases as one alternative.

Before launching into a typical three-tip-recipe for innovation, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves why business cases are useful:

“Business cases exist to propose beneficial change that will create value”.

This is about as succinct a definition as can be conjured up by anyone. So clearly, we need business cases to communicate the value of change, of doing something new. But we don’t need them to make a “thud!” as they hit the desk.

Tip One: Business Canvas – A plan on a page

It’s undeniable, writing a business case is a smart thing to do. But, people are time poor. Give readers what they need quickly, in succinct, convincing and un-flowery language.

An ideal way to describe the case for any innovation is a plan on a page. The constraint of a single page drives you to be succinct, even visual, as you argue the case for innovation and disruption.

A Business Canvas is a one page plan. If you care to know more about various canvases then read business model canvas here. The objective of any canvas is to communicate succinctly. In the case of innovation, a canvas has to demonstrate the value created by the innovation and how the value is to be measured.

Tip Two: References Reduce Duplication

Some years ago, I worked for a global miner. My task was to deliver a solution design for the communication systems and control processes of autonomous vehicles. The previous person in the role delivered a document that caused the downfall of two rain-forests! Readers reported having near-death experiences due to exhaustion caused by technical jargon. people were forced to review stuff that they’d seen a thousand times before in other documents.

It took me some weeks, but I presented an alternative document of 10 pages (less than 8% the size of the previous document).

My approach was to reference relevant existing information (documents, libraries, the internet), building the description of my innovation around the existing body of knowledge. I’d basically ask the reader to go to those sources if they needed to see the information . The references also reassured my readers that I’d done my research, I’d seen the same documents as them. We each trusted in a common understanding, which became the foundation of my solution.

In many organisations, people’s jobs, even lives can depend on everyone knowing about key documents such as strategy, processes and procedures. The reader doesn’t need you to duplicate this information. Referencing the sources of information adds authority and validation to your claims and observations.

Tip Three: Use Visualization not Words

An effective and simple diagram instantly communicates complex scenarios that evade succinct description. So I will write no more on that. Just look at the increasing popularity of infographics. There’s a well known saying which I’ll bend to fit this tip…”Show me, don’t tell me”.

Damn, I wish I had a chart to show you the increasing popularity of infographics!

Business Canvas & Innovation Wrap-up

It takes me about one hour to facilitate somebody I’ve never met before, to create a Business Canvas. Whether it’s for a new startup, a new innovation, or a crazy idea that just might work. The objective is simply to get everything out of people’s heads on to a “single page”. A Business Canvas helps us to stand back, critique, think more and then refine the information. We can repeat the process several times until we are all clear and agreed on what to do and why.

Innovation: Parting Thought

Innovation is an Impatient Process, so why is it that we spend months developing business cases? Innovation won’t wait that long! The speed and rate of change increases constantly. In my opinion, the processes for approval of innovative projects has to accelerate accordingly.

Next time I’ll write about why constraints are important, so that you don’t think I just want you to sign blank-cheques for innovation.