The Innovation Refrigerator: Is the Timing Right for Your Innovation Efforts?


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You all know the innovation funnel, but do you know the innovation refrigerator?

The idea is simple: Innovation processes are often built around the funnel in which a project has to go through different stages and gates. Many projects do not make it all the way to the market and then they are just dropped. Out of the process, out of the mind.

However, in these days of fast change and pace, we need to acknowledge that timing is often what decides the faith of an innovation project.

If it is too early, it will be stopped at some point – or in the market itself. If it is too late, the same will happen. Timing is essential.

But what happens if the circumstances change? What happens if the elements that influenced the timing change? Now, some projects that were dropped earlier might be very relevant, but do you still remember them and can you bring them back into your innovation processes?

This is not always the case because when it has been killed once, it can be difficult bring it back alive and especially if the innovation happens in busy business units.

You need special attention and care to this issue and one solution could be to develop an innovation basket – or as I heard today – an innovation refrigerator where you freeze down selected innovation projects that could have worked in a different market or internal scenario.

The key challenge here is to decide what factors to use to decide which projects to freeze because the use of an innovation refrigerator also calls for a warning.

You still want to be able to kill projects in an organization. One of the worst things that can happen is that you get lots of zombie projects. These are projects that are neither alive or dead and thus still sucks up some level of energy and resources within an organization.

Finding the right balance between killing projects outright and putting some in the refrigerator is key to make this work, but hey, everything in the context of innovation is about balance in some way, right? You can make this work.

I heard the term, the innovation refrigerator, while visiting Ideas4All, which is an interesting platform and service provider for sharing ideas and making innovation happen across and outside organizations. Ideas4All is based in Madrid, Spain and I had a great meeting with a small group of their clients being corporate innovators from large Spanish companies.

Besides hearing the cool term of the innovation refrigerator, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that corporate innovation in Spain seems to thrive despite the hard toll of the financial crisis. It even seemed as if several companies have a fairly high level of innovation maturity and I look forward to write more about this in the near future.

The corporate innovation efforts are starting to pick up again. About time, right?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stefan Lindegaard
Stefan is an author, speaker, facilitator and consultant focusing on open innovation, social media tools and intrapreneurship.


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