How to Break Up with an Innovation Project

Breaking up isn’t easy — especially if you are a leader “breaking up with” an innovation project that one of your teams still believes in passionately. It is a critical part of the innovation journey however, and done well can produce a positive outcome across the board.

Consider a conversation that might start like this:

“We need to talk,” she says.

There’s only one way this conversation ends, you think, but you paste a smile on your face and reply, “Sure. What’s up?”

“We seem to be stuck,” she says. “When we started it all seemed so perfect. But now every time we talk it is about the problems we face.”

“We just need more time,” you say. “We will get through this and come out the other side stronger. Remember why we started this in the first place?”

“Absolutely,” she says. “The story. Our story. It gave me chills the first time I heard it. I believed. And I still believed after you told me to wait and have faith six months ago. And three months ago. But we have to come to grips with reality. That vision we both believed in is an illusion. The data doesn’t lie. Think of the other things we both could be doing instead. We had some great times, and I don’t regret them at all.”

“But,” she finishes with authority, “it is time.”

And the project breakup process has begun.

Investors in startups have it comparatively easy. Breakup happens by default because the cash coffers run dry. Sure, investors need to have tough conversations about the need to change directions or make personnel changes, but there is no ambiguity when the end comes.

In contrast, rhythms inside organizations mean that ideas that are sanctioned tend to take on lives of their own. Further, strong penalties for failing to deliver against commitments make it in everyone’s interest to keep pushing ahead.

Any time you commission an innovative project, failing to achieve your commercial objectives is a real possibility. The more innovative the idea, the more it by definition rests on assumptions that may or may not pan out.

Read the rest at Harvard Business Review.

Scott D. Anthony is the managing partner of Innosight.

Source: New feed

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