Artlinco about barriers for innovation and development

7 pitfalls in any development project

All innovation- and development projects are different and therefore contain different challenges. But we have seen 7 pitfalls that often recur, that are damaging to any innovation project – short as well as long.

Since the word innovation appeared on everyone’s lips, many has tried to describe exactly what this entails, how to further it and control it. It is a double-edge sword because innovation is strangled in too much control but in the same demands it in the right amounts. But what is the right amount? And what typically stops an innovation- and development project?

Time is valuable for all companies and might seem as a barrier on its own. It is often a barrier to start a development project because there is a fear that it will poach too much time and ressources. But innovation doesn’t always have to be bound to long projects that drags out all ressources from the daily work. It can be an advantage with short innovation projects that however takes extra structure end efficiency.

We have worked with projects that lasted up to 2 years, but we have also had many short innovation projects with our clients. When an innovation project runs as what we call a Sprint, the pace is crucial. We have experienced that short innovation projects have been in high demand because it gives an opportunity to develop a product or service in a short time. But a Sprint can also be the start of a bigger project, where the Sprint is the foundation for all the coming work, and makes sure that there is direction and a basis for a validated decision.

1. Lack of structure and an unclear design brief

Lack of structure can derail even the biggest organisation. Structure is necessary in any work but it more about what degree of structure is needed. There is no recipe for how much structure that is demanded in an innovation project. But a design brief and a business case makes up a good foundation for structuring the proces and keeping track of the effect of the work.

 

The design brief defines needs, requirements and goals for the product or service. It concretises the job and makes sure the is a direction for the development and form. It is a guideline that can be diverted from, if you during the proces discover that corrections should be made. But the outlining helps both designers/developers and the client to align expectations and hopefully avoid misunderstandings or unrealistic expectations.

2. Ideas are treated as individual solutions

Most things are weaker or doesn’t work when they are removed from their context. It is the same way with ideas. They do not live in a vacuum and one idé will always have an impact on something else in the project or organisation. Therefore you will have to examine your ideas with critical eyes and look at them from a 360 degree full angle.

If it’s difficult to see the ideas with new eyes or if you have tendencies to fall back into old habits and approaches, it is worth to have someone external coming into the project. With external partners you can get helt developing new ideas, uncover habits and processes that work against the project or uncover where communication fail.

3. Budget is exceeded

No matter if to much money has been used or to much time spend, they are both killers to an innovation project. Either it means that you from the start budgeted unrealistically, or you have been working too unstructured, lacked communication, made too many mistakes or repetitions. Mistakes are never completely avoided and they exist so you can learn.

 

 ”A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than yesterday.” Jonathan Swift

 

If you learn from your mistakes, hopefully you don’t repeat them (too many times). That means that your company, team and you will have to self-evaluate. When you have the courage to evaluate your own performance and take a look at yourself and what might have been done differently, you have taken the first step for getting even more skilled. And hereby hopefully also avoid exceedings on budget and timeplan.

Time is valuable for all companies and might seem as a barrier on its own. It is often a barrier to start a development project because there is a fear that it will poach too much time and ressources. But innovation doesn’t always have to be bound to long projects that drags out all ressources from the daily work. It can be an advantage with short innovation projects that however takes extra structure end efficiency.
We have worked with projects that lasted up to 2 years, but we have also had many short innovation projects with our clients. When an innovation project runs as what we call a Sprint, the pace is crucial. We have experienced that short innovation projects have been in high demand because it gives an opportunity to develop a product or service in a short time. But a Sprint can also be the start of a bigger project, where the Sprint is the foundation for all the coming work, and makes sure that there is direction and a basis for a validated decision.

1. Lack of structure and an unclear design brief

Lack of structure can derail even the biggest organisation. Structure is necessary in any work but it more about what degree of structure is needed. There is no recipe for how much structure that is demanded in an innovation project. But a design brief and a business case makes up a good foundation for structuring the proces and keeping track of the effect of the work.

The design brief defines needs, requirements and goals for the product or service. It concretises the job and makes sure the is a direction for the development and form. It is a guideline that can be diverted from, if you during the proces discover that corrections should be made. But the outlining helps both designers/developers and the client to align expectations and hopefully avoid misunderstandings or unrealistic expectations.

2. Ideas are treated as individual solutions

Most things are weaker or doesn’t work when they are removed from their context. It is the same way with ideas. They do not live in a vacuum and one idé will always have an impact on something else in the project or organisation. Therefore you will have to examine your ideas with critical eyes and look at them from a 360 degree full angle.

If it’s difficult to see the ideas with new eyes or if you have tendencies to fall back into old habits and approaches, it is worth to have someone external coming into the project. With external partners you can get helt developing new ideas, uncover habits and processes that work against the project or uncover where communication fail.

3. Budget is exceeded

No matter if to much money has been used or to much time spend, they are both killers to an innovation project. Either it means that you from the start budgeted unrealistically, or you have been working too unstructured, lacked communication, made too many mistakes or repetitions. Mistakes are never completely avoided and they exist so you can learn.

 ”A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than yesterday.” Jonathan Swift

If you learn from your mistakes, hopefully you don’t repeat them (too many times). That means that your company, team and you will have to self-evaluate. When you have the courage to evaluate your own performance and take a look at yourself and what might have been done differently, you have taken the first step for getting even more skilled. And hereby hopefully also avoid exceedings on budget and timeplan.

“Most things are weaker or doesn’t work when they are removed from their context. It is the same way with ideas.”

4. Difficulties gathering decision-makers

Even though it sound easy, it can be quite a puzzle to gather all decision-makers and get calendars synchronized. First of all it is also about identifying who are actually decision-makers.

If the project runs smoothly and action is taken, it’s not only depending on decision-makers. Therefore it is important to identify the persons and gatekeepers that posses knowledge that can turn the project into a success. Remember that Carl that works in the stockroom might have a bigger role than first presumed. Maybe he knows all about the daily operations, financials and work procedures and might be important when decisions are made.

5. Lack of in-house capacity because of daily operations

Daily operations are inevitable and necessary. But if it takes so much time that there are no longer room for the innovation projects you start, then you need to take a look at daily structure and processes. Maybe you could be better at planning, clarify agreements, make meetings more effective and short or divide tasks different.

When the day is filled with tasks it can be difficult to find to be immersed in an innovation project. Results don’t show right away, the process can be long – so it is a decision to choose and prioritize. Make up your minds about the capacity that you are willing to use in developing and optimizing. And maybe an even more important question; what happens if you don’t prioritize development and optimization?

4. Difficulties gathering decision-makers

Even though it sound easy, it can be quite a puzzle to gather all decision-makers and get calendars synchronized. First of all it is also about identifying who are actually decision-makers.

If the project runs smoothly and action is taken, it’s not only depending on decision-makers. Therefore it is important to identify the persons and gatekeepers that posses knowledge that can turn the project into a success. Remember that Carl that works in the stockroom might have a bigger role than first presumed. Maybe he knows all about the daily operations, financials and work procedures and might be important when decisions are made.

5. Lack of in-house capacity because of daily operations

Daily operations are inevitable and necessary. But if it takes so much time that there are no longer room for the innovation projects you start, then you need to take a look at daily structure and processes. Maybe you could be better at planning, clarify agreements, make meetings more effective and short or divide tasks different.

When the day is filled with tasks it can be difficult to find to be immersed in an innovation project. Results don’t show right away, the process can be long – so it is a decision to choose and prioritize. Make up your minds about the capacity that you are willing to use in developing and optimizing. And maybe an even more important question; what happens if you don’t prioritize development and optimization?

6. Lack of deliberations about business case

A business case give reason for why a project should be started and how it is viable. But it is not enough to ascertain this because it has to be founded on specific numbers, calculations, gains, risks etc. In other words, it has to be visible and transparent to everyone involved in the project, which risks the are in comparison with ROI.

Even with plans and structure you have to be prepared for bumps and dead ends on the road. Make strategies to solve it and involve persons with skills to solve it. The business case is a dynamic management tool to keep track of how the changes are implemented and how the described gains are realized. By using the business case this way it is also possible to make changes in time.

It is basically simplified to the question: “what do I have to invest, what are the odds of success and when do I get the return on investment?”

7. Decisions are based on gut feelings

Patience is a virtue when it comes to the preliminary part that has to do with insight. Without insight you have nothing to base your solutions on. So those solutions will be based on assumptions and not real insight. This work dives deeper into the areas around costumer, user, market, production etc. All the knowledge that decides in which direction you need to work, because you systematically gathered relevant knowledge.

A lot of people will have a tendency to skip this part because it takes time and money. But assumptions can in this case be dangerous and send your project in the wrong direction.

6. Lack of deliberations about business case

A business case give reason for why a project should be started and how it is viable. But it is not enough to ascertain this because it has to be founded on specific numbers, calculations, gains, risks etc. In other words, it has to be visible and transparent to everyone involved in the project, which risks the are in comparison with ROI.

Even with plans and structure you have to be prepared for bumps and dead ends on the road. Make strategies to solve it and involve persons with skills to solve it. The business case is a dynamic management tool to keep track of how the changes are implemented and how the described gains are realized. By using the business case this way it is also possible to make changes in time.

It is basically simplified to the question: “what do I have to invest, what are the odds of success and when do I get the return on investment?”

7. Decisions are based on gut feelings

Patience is a virtue when it comes to the preliminary part that has to do with insight. Without insight you have nothing to base your solutions on. So those solutions will be based on assumptions and not real insight. This work dives deeper into the areas around costumer, user, market, production etc. All the knowledge that decides in which direction you need to work, because you systematically gathered relevant knowledge.

A lot of people will have a tendency to skip this part because it takes time and money. But assumptions can in this case be dangerous and send your project in the wrong direction.

Your preparation is your management tool…

The golden secret is hidden in your preparations. Maybe it might seem obvious but often it happens that the preparations become half in the eagerness to get started on a project. Innovation require thought experiments, creativity and abstraction – just as much as it require preparations and structure.

The preparations have to be thorough so it is possible to make effect- and result measurements as well as make corrections in time. Only with strong communication and planning you are able to see when plans run of the rail. Without preparations you are holding a map without any roads, where you will have to navigate from hunches and risk getting lost and going in circles.

Your preparation is your management tool…

The golden secret is hidden in your preparations. Maybe it might seem obvious but often it happens that the preparations become half in the eagerness to get started on a project. Innovation require thought experiments, creativity and abstraction – just as much as it require preparations and structure.

The preparations have to be thorough so it is possible to make effect- and result measurements as well as make corrections in time. Only with strong communication and planning you are able to see when plans run of the rail. Without preparations you are holding a map without any roads, where you will have to navigate from hunches and risk getting lost and going in circles.

At Artlinco we have worked with innovation since 2001 and most employees have worked with it for big parts of their professional life.

Innovation is our trade – with more than 325 projects, we think it is fair to call ourselves experts in strategic innovation.

Let's grab a coffee together

Let's identify your challenges together

Let's show you how we work with strategic innovation

Cases

Ønskebørn

Tripl

ENOMO

Skal vi kigge på dit næste projekt?


+45 70 20 80 36