There is a great divide between creating/imagining a new idea or invention and crossing over to launching it as a successful innovation in the marketplace. One way this divide can manifest is between the innovation team and the commercialization team in a large organization.
First the challenges that create the divide:
- You don’t speak the same language. Those imagining consider possibilities, differentiation, one of a kind, meaningful change. Those launching and commercializing think about predictions, ROI, representative consumer appeal, risk.
- You live in different neighborhoods. While I believe it’s necessary to have a separate team focusing on innovation, this likely means you live in a different neighborhood in the company. Perhaps you are embedded with the R&D group or in a skunkworks facility offsite. In any event, you often live elsewhere and rarely run into your commercialization counterparts.
- There is a “need to know” silence imposed. Many large organizations impose a “need to know” silence on their innovation teams to keep thing secret as long as possible so nothing can leak to competition. Yet, this silence can keep the commercialization team in the dark too long.
- They are the enemy consuming your resources. Innovation teams can see the needs of the current business as limiting their investment funds for design. Current teams can see the innovation team as wasting valuable funds for growing the business.
So, what is the way out?
- As you are learning the language of your new idea, also seek to learn the language of the organization that will need to launch your idea. What matters to them? What can you do in the learning plan/design stage to build your knowledge in these ares?
- Reach across the borders and network with your commercialization partners, ideally in person, perhaps over coffee or lunch. Ask for updates on how the business is doing and what they are learning (perhaps there is something useful to your work). Plant seeds about the insights you are seeing and how that might impact the business (perhaps there are things the current business can do now that will strengthen its ability to launch the idea).
- When the “need to know” silence can be lifted, start first with the story of the development of the idea and the insights and empathy that underpin it. Share the journey and iterative learning that have brought the idea forward to where it is today. Make explicit the intangibles that standard data is not picking up on that are essential to success. Once the story has been transferred, then you can move onto the rational data transfer.
- Reframe your “they are taking” frame of the other organization to a more positive one of “they are able to provide” frame. What resources, learning, support might the other offer you. Tap into it, perhaps over one of those collaborative and connecting coffees.
It is not always easy to prioritize these positive actions. Like everything, they take time. But I ask you, if you don’t do it and the transfer of knowledge/leadership goes poorly, resulting in time consuming rework or idea dilution, was the time gained by not taking early action worth it?
Pick up the phone and check in with your counterpart upstream/downstream, perhaps over coffee. Start planting seeds and building the connections that will increase your odds of success.