Friday, April 3, 2009

"We have plenty of ideas...."

"We have plenty of ideas, it's the execution that let's us down" I have heard this said very often, especially by senior / executive managers. I think it is something that people keep telling themselves so much that they come to believe it. If this is the root cause, they say to themselves, then the solution is simple: get better at execution and we'll be fine.

They exhort: "innovation is all about execution" or "we need to raise the bar on our execution". Sounds good doesn't it?

I think it is complete crap. Or rather incomplete crap. Incomplete because execution is only part of the picture.

One of the (many) things I love about ?WhatIf! is their equation for innovation, and especially their new and improved version:

Innovation = Insight x Ideas x Impact

What this means is that for Innovation, you need Insights into the problem, the customers, the user or the context. You need Ideas. And you need to DO something with those ideas - i.e. make an Impact. If any one of the these variables is missing or is ineffective and thus of zero value, then there is zero innovation. That's the point of the multiplication signs, if you miss out on any of the elements of the equation, it isn't innovation.

Each part of the ?WhatIf! equation should be innovative and remarkable in its own right. If the insights are not new, remarkable, and different to all previous insights, how likely is it that the ideas that flow from them will be remarkable? If you have remarkable ideas but the delivery of them is through the same old channels using the same processes, how likely is it that these ideas will be truly remarkable?

My advice is that when you hear people say "We have plenty of ideas...", your first question should be "how remarkable are those ideas or how new and different are they?". Your second question should be "and from which insights did the ideas come from and were these truly insightful or surprising or remarkable?"

When you have good answers to these two questions, you can start to work on innovating the way you make ideas happen.


  1. Well said Jonathan -- and hope you'll speak more to this business of gathering insights in future posts.

  2. Hi Stone

    Thanks. I'd be more than happy to post some thought on insights. One of my favourite topics!