As we have seen, having and communicating an innovative vision are essential. The next step to leading innovation is implementing the vision. This stage is often the most challenging because it immediately and clearly affects the status quo. In general, my innovation experience has boiled down to the following five stages: research, pilot, execute, evaluate, and back to the beginning.
All innovation implementation begins with studying the opportunity and the proposed solution. Time and energy should be spent learning about the potential, pitfalls, obstacles, internal and external momentum, and organizational history, to name a few. While there are many areas which must be studied, we must not linger in this stage. Innovation is often immediately derailed in this stage because leaders continually and obsessively research the problem and miss the opportunity to initiate the innovation. It is important to be informed but you will never understand or predict every implication of the proposed innovation. To learn what will happen, you must beta test your innovation.
In this stage, after you have done your homework, you begin to beta test your idea in a controlled manner. I believe this stage is often confused and misunderstood. Depending on the innovation to be implemented, the pilot program will vary in scale. Indeed, some innovations are truly never able to be piloted in actuality because the mere initiation of a pilot requires the innovation to immediately be brought to scale.
For example, when I was implementing an interim program in our school, there was no way to pilot the program on a small scale. We were either doing an interim program or we weren’t. However, our international student program has slowly been brought to scale and began with a small pilot program with one or two students.
In situations such as our interim program, where a real beta test was not able to be implemented, we were required to study and learn from others that had already implemented interim programs. We used other’s programs as our pilot program. Likewise, when our school launched our 1:1 iPad program, we were unable to do a full student beta test. In this situation, we relied on our research, experience, and intuition in launching our program. In each case, the goal was to be as prepared as possible before we officially launched our idea.
Once you have beta tested your innovation, you are ready to launch your program.
Once you arrive at this stage, the time has come to stop your innovative idea or to go full speed ahead. Executing your vision is a scary and uncertain endeavor; however, it is also exhilarating. In this stage, all of your dreaming, communicating, researching, and testing are realized as you publicly and confidently launch your innovation. In reality, this stage is quite simple but it often stymies leaders. This is the point of no return. Once you launch your idea, you must live with the consequences of your decision. Later in the series, we will discuss how to overcome challenges, but for now, we will simply execute our vision.
Now that your innovation is off the ground and flying, you should monitor and evaluate your progress. How is it working? What do the constituents in your organization think? Do you need to change your course? Questions such as these allow you to determine your next right step.
When we were implementing our 1:1 iPad program, we began to notice that other technologies were readily available and cost effective. A year later, we evaluated our program implementation and began to entertain the idea of a BYOD program. Continual monitoring and evaluation over the following two years led us to alter our direction and amend our program. We have now adopted a BYOD program. This process is still ongoing. We are in the first year of our BYOD program and I am certain, with continual evaluation, we will further innovate in this area.
Back to the Beginning
Implementing innovation is a non-stop process. As you evaluate your innovation, you will find yourself back at the beginning, researching new ideas and implementing new innovations. In the third installment to this blog series, we will discuss how to promote an innovative culture, encouraging the innovation cycle we just described. Truly innovative organizations promote, celebrate, and thrive when everyone is engaged in the innovation