What Does It Really Take to Wire Ideas for Market Impact?

  • Ideas_tomarket_f

“Leadership says they’re excited about the idea, but then they don’t put their money where their mouth is.”

“The idea doesn’t live squarely in one brand or business unit, so it’s not clear who should champion it.”

“We test the idea once, and it doesn’t do well, and then we kill it instead of trying to figure out ways to make it better.”

Of all the grievances our innovators encounter in the field, these rank among the most heard. They point to a contradiction on the front lines of innovation. We live in an era in which innovation reigns supreme—and everything from state addresses to New York Times bestsellers to the board’s P&L expectations reminds us of that fact. Everyone wants it, everyone needs it. But the day-to-day realities of those who are actually tasked with innovation tend to be mired more in a vague sense of frustration than a triumphant chorus of bottom-line wins. One big source of that frustration: having your big idea—the one you and your team just know can stand the test of time and generate market impact—diluted, stalled, and eventually quashed by organizational barriers. It’s the tragedy of a great idea never seeing the light of day, and it’s enough to make innovation feel academic—abstract, even.

This quarter in the Greenhouse we’ll be showcasing the ways our people and our clients tackle this issue. In many organizations, the belief that “creative” and “commercial” activities exist in exclusive realms is still prevalent. Our belief, which we’ll unpack over the course of the quarter, is that getting ideas to market means ensuring both behaviors are happening at the same time, throughout the course of the process, by the same group of people. It’s about a healthy balance of madness and measure: knowing how and when to shift between grounded, razor-sharp business analysis and audacious, rule-bending imagination.

The journey from idea to market impact requires multiple lenses—people, behaviors, tools, and the raw quality of the idea—and we’ll be looking at this process through each over the weeks ahead.

Do businesses that are big and slow have an innovating advantage over Silicon Valley startups? It’s a question we debate by looking at the ways in which global players can better incorporate existing practices to buttress what’s already in their pipelines. We celebrate the power of setting deliberate constraints in driving innovation to impact—and throw a spotlight on one of its unlikeliest (and most popular) champions. And if your first reaction upon hearing the phrase “stage gate” is to recoil, we offer up some insights for how to engage with the process instead of getting tripped up by it. (Hint: it’s all about proactive collaboration.)

Wiring ideas for market impact is not something that just happens—it’s a process, and one that presents easy escapes for those looking for an off ramp. But in the coming weeks, we’ll offer up many more compelling rationales for keeping at it, and avoiding the paths that too often lead to the death of good ideas.

Illustration by Kris Fillon.

FROM the greenhouse