In 2015, did you spend too much time coming up with ideas, but not implementing them? Spend too much money in the testing phase? Become preoccupied by one problem, to the detriment of solving others? Felt that you lacked the resources to innovate effectively? If so, perhaps you should consider adopting a lean strategy for 2016.

An evolutionary process, the concept of lean innovation has been likened to Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, i.e.  Taking the elements of an idea that work and continuing to develop these, whilst simultaneously weeding out the aspects that weren’t successful and either re-working them or leaving them behind all-together. Ultimately, lean innovation is end-user centric.  It’s iterative, frugal, solution development with a quick roll-out that understands, collaborates with and capitalises on the current market.

However, it’s not always easy to achieve. Having structure is essential but it can’t inhibit the momentum of the lean process, which is fast-flowing by design and doesn’t concentrate on developing the perfected product straight away. With its rapid cycle of trial and error, the lean innovation process could quite easily descend in to disorganised, unproductive chaos, and so a degree of agility is therefore required within an organisation, in order to provide stability but also cultivate the creativity and freedom which we all recognise is at the heart of innovation and intrapreneurship.  A balance needs to be struck and this will be different for every organisation for a number of reasons; from size, to culture, to market. However, investing time in getting this balance right will help to unlock the full potential of the lean innovation strategy. 

With this in mind, another particularly important area to consider is the value of lean innovation as a learning process, which is quite often overlooked or not taken advantage of and is therefore where the benefits of adopting this strategy can easily be lost. The fast-paced nature of lean innovation is one of the key things that make it an extremely valuable source of learning and so it’s important these lessons are recognised and tapped in to. It can be easy for silo-cultures to develop within organisations, or for lacking communication channels and insufficient development strategies to hinder learning, for example. An effective lean innovation strategy learns what works but also learns from what doesn’t, and it shares these lessons across all aspects of the business so that everyone is working together to drive continuous improvement, after all every member of the team has an influence and a part to play. Alignment with learning strategies, effective leadership and management, and efficient communications are all key areas to consider, alongside a clear strategy for implementing lean innovation. A more holistic approach will help an organisation to capitalise on the many benefits of lean innovation, including the valuable lessons it has to offer.

Implementing lean innovation might sound resource-heavy initially and it may require some structural re-arrangement. However, in the long-run it can offer an exciting, cost-effective and time-efficient way to innovate; one which encourages quick-fire research, development, learning, and growth. Ultimately, the lean innovation strategy can often produce unique and surprising business opportunities which might never have been considered or even dreamt of before! So why not get lean in 2016 and see what it can do for you?

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