Two Frequently Overlooked Innovation Success Factors

In the quest to spur growth from new sources, corporations will inevitably dedicate resources to innovation initiatives. Whether innovation takes the form of tiger teams, innovation labs, cross-functional project teams, or consultant-led off-sites, efforts frequently fail to gain traction, particularly when attempting to integrate the innovative concepts back into the core business. Leadership, culture, strategy, or process shortcomings are often blamed, and rightfully so, for the failure of such efforts. However, success isn't guaranteed even with empowering leaders, inspiring culture, visionary strategy, or cutting-edge innovation processes.

Successful innovation involves improving your odds of success at every turn, but corporations often leave some of the most stubborn inhibitors unchecked. Addressing the following Two Frequently Overlooked Innovation Success Factors can make the difference between an innovative concept taking off or falling flat in your organization:

Technological Readiness

Even in the most traditional industries, such as insurance, technological readiness is vitally important for successful innovation. Every corporate innovator, at some point, has been frustrated by the organization's inability to rapidly build and test new concepts. But, it's unreasonable to expect rapid product development efforts to take root in a business which has fully operationalized a controlled, stage-gate product development process. Too frequently, the resources that maintain and update legacy systems are the same resources called upon to push innovations through these systems and into production. This produces conflicting priorities which lead to long delays in implementation. To have a successful, sustainable innovation program, your company must spend at least as much time readying itself for innovation as it does innovating. For instance, adoption of agile principles and pace-layered architecture; development of virtual environments, two-way APIs, and sandboxes; and procurement of unstructured data mining capabilities can allow innovation to occur in tightly controlled systems that are designed for speed and errors.

Buy (or rent), Don't Build Mentality

Particularly in industries with complex underlying systems, such as policy administration systems, there is a strong tendency to build new technology in-house so that it does not add unnecessary complexity to already unwieldy systems. In an age where what you're building probably already exists, the desire to control all data by developing all applications in-house will likely impact your speed-to-market, however. Businesses today must strive to understand to what extent their operational risk controls are impacting their ability to execute on their strategy, but many aren't having this conversation. External innovators are continuously developing new algorithms, programs and applications that can allow corporate innovators to skip multiple steps without compromising quality or security. When paired with a well-designed technology readiness plan, a buy, don't build mentality can safely accelerate innovation efforts.


While these two factors may seem to point to an organizational design of innovation being "owned" by IT, that is not the intent. Instead, innovation should be a common thread woven into all of the strategic plans of an organization. The company's technology strategy must incorporate a technological readiness plan that is informed not solely by its core business growth strategy, but also by its desire to rapidly identify and integrate new sources of growth.


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