In my previous blogs in this series, I shared the key aspects of the Innovation Funding Board (IFB) concept—from guiding principles and stakeholder roles to the innovation process itself. In closing, we’ll look at some final process and cultural considerations to address before implementing an IFB.
Every organization will face unique circumstances and challenges, however, the process considerations highlighted here are applicable in many cases.
First and foremost, try to remove guesswork wherever possible. Imperfect information is a given for any process of this nature, but working with facts wherever possible will ultimately lead to a faster, more desirable outcome.
Secondly, instill entrepreneurial rigor around managing a diverse set of small bets and de-risking ideas as they progress. In doing so, innovation teams learn the discipline of validating customer needs and problem definition instead of jumping straight to solutions.
Thirdly, allow for a varied project portfolio. This can be achieved by designing an IFB process for robust, disciplined governance across a variety of project types. The focus is on innovation funding, but longer term, higher risk projects might be diverse and difficult to compare directly.
Implementing an IFB presents a golden opportunity to instill a stronger entrepreneurial mindset across any organization. But change doesn’t happen overnight. The following considerations will help to smooth the path to effective, long-term cultural change.
Begin by encouraging big picture, business-focused thinking. Get teams to build “fundable business opportunities” instead of just pitching innovative products/solutions. In many cases, initial concepts are wrong. However, if they’re part of a wider business opportunity targeting a large, attractive market then it’s off to a great start.
Next, make sure those involved know that it’s okay to fail. Fear of failure can be one of the biggest barriers to success. Demonstrate that smart risk-taking is encouraged, and that killing projects can be celebrated, not lamented, because it shows learning and frees up resources for better opportunities. In conjunction, challenge long-held assumptions to break new ground as this is often where the best breakthroughs come from. Make sure teams are open to new thinking and never allow group or personal assumptions to stand in the way.
Finally, instill a sense of accountability within innovation teams. Encourage them to self-assess opportunities before putting them to the board. Remember that an IFB is not a “pitch panel”. It’s a forum for funding, guiding, and empowering teams.