Planning Innovation Into 2014

Innovating in yearIt’s the beginning of the year and forecasts for the year are probably in by now or are being tweaked. The budgets are set along with projects that are priorities for the year.  Are the projects being funded innovative? How do you build in room for innovation?

Next Year: Working in most organizations involves selling your ideas and projects at least a year in advance. This encompasses getting interest and understanding for the idea, stakeholder buy-in and getting into the list of approved projects that will be funded the following funding cycle.

Take time right now to identify the projects being funded that are innovative. Is this reflective of your organizations vision?

Building room for innovation in year:

In this day and age there is very little buffer built into budgets for funding innovation during the year unless you are fortunate enough to work in an organization where there are innovation teams and skunk works projects being encouraged. With these there are still processes involved and steps to take.

During Budget Cuts: Throw into the equation mid-year or quarterly budget cuts and your chances for funding innovation appear to be gone altogether. Ironically opportunities come up for innovation during budget cuts – in some ways budget cuts are a form of lean innovation.  Organizations look at projects that can be held off, moved along slower or completely cut depending on priorities. This is also an opportunity to put forward initiatives that can help reduce costs – whether it is changing, retiring or replacing processes, systems and technology.

How can you create a buffer for innovation? Innovation cycles are so rapid now that they can give you whiplash but you need to stay on top of each cycle. Having innovation teams and centres is great (as long as they have the financing and authority to move projects forward).  This has to be done from the top at the director, VP or C level (ie. CEO,CIO, CMO). In this case they too will carve out from a project that is already funded. If it is enticing enough and well-presented it will make it onto the priority list.

End of Year: Planning for innovation is easier to do if you are near the fiscal year end and are finding you have resources and funding left over from other projects.  For example, if March is your fiscal year end, this is a great opportunity to rethink goals and innovation – not just for planning for the new fiscal year but for funding truly innovative initiatives.

Now: There is still room at the beginning of the year to shuffle the priorities of projects before too much work gets started in 2014. Even if projects have been going on for a while it might be time to put them on hold or turn off completely. It is better to identify sunk costs (a cost that has already occurred which will never be recovered) earlier on rather than continuing to invest further at the cost of working on truly innovative projects. Perhaps leaders need to think if there are projects that at one time were innovative but are no longer innovative. Is it time to rethink moving forward with these projects?

Take time to think about the type of innovation you want to develop now and either find funding for it now or work it into next year’s priorities (starting now).


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