Testing Innovation Potential In Startups

Testing Innovation Potential In Startups

Jun 11th, 2015

Testing Innovation Potential In Startups

We read/hear a lot of talking about “disruptive innovation” ideas. Many of these disruptive innovations, however, seem to be linear extensions of an extant solution, say a less polluting engine, a better lasting battery or more functional accessory, a new, stronger, easier to use app. Oftentimes it is like no-one has really asked the developer or themselves if the innovation actually was disruptive before using the oh so fashionable adjective.

Thoresby Colliery Junction and signal box. Colliery trains turn left into the siding, while the double-track test track begins straight ahead

Thoresby Colliery Junction and signal box. Colliery trains turn left into the siding, while the double-track test track begins straight ahead.

Voices are raising (for example: Warren Berger, “A More Beautiful Question” ) to claim that breakthrough innovations would be more true to the adjective if hard questions were asked early in the process: they claim that the most creative, successful business leaders tend to be expert questioners, mastering the art of inquiry, raising questions no one else is asking, and finding powerful, reliable answers. It is interesting to note the parallelism between a rational risk management approach and the questions an entrepreneur/CEO should ask its Team to avoid becoming an early “disruptive innovation” failure.

Readers of this blog may recall we discussed “survivor bias” and an earlier discussion on the value brought in by careful failure analyses.

The idea we brought forward was that it is of paramount importance to carefully study the scores that fail, rather than the few that succeed. Let’s see how this work with respect to “disruptive innovations”.

A seldom asked question is why others, possibly very smart competitors, may have failed on a similar idea. Seldom asked because in strongly goes against the built-in survivor bias we all share deep inside. If asked and carefully analyzed it would allow building a strong database of past “negative” experience and hence risks that have to be carefully avoided or managed.

Another important question requires the definition of the “environment” in which the innovation will evolve. Many developers only focus on their invention or technology, and never consider the challenges of the business environment they are entering. Defining the context is one of the first steps in ISO31000, to be immediately followed by a system’s definition . Defining the context should include target client/audience, customer behavior etc.

It would then be time to actually perform a pre-feasibility project risk assessment to foster creativity and test ideas as they are brought forward; a collaborative thinking act, a catalyzer capable of adding value to any proposal.
There should be no censoring or biasing and “unthinkable” questions need to get asked and answered in this phase. Asking the hard questions early will force more thinking outside the box, and improve the potential for real breakthroughs.

In the course of the pre-feasibility risk assessment operational, tactical and strategic risks will emerge and Team’s stances will become apparent when confronted to these scenarios. Strategic risks are those that may require strategic shifts, or pivots. Operational and Tactical risks are those that foster a true understanding of the holistic risk landscape and help creating awareness for uncertainty.

The holistic project risk assessment that will emerge, including a rational and scalable risk register should be seen as a dynamic companion to every step of the development, discussions, proposals.

With over two decades of activity in the arena of projects, developments and capital expenditures Riskope can support your endeavors coaching and supporting your “questioning attitude”, asking tough questions.

Survivability and harmonious development of your project/start-up are at stake.

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Category: Consequences, Probabilities, Risk analysis, Risk management

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