The top 5 challenges of building an innovation program, and how to overcome them.

📷 By: Chae Junsung, ArtStation.

You have to find a balance between design and execution, just like in life, everything comes at a cost. And at a value.

One of the best lessons I learned in my Economics studies is the theory of opportunity cost. It states that for every activity you partake in, you're incurring a cost of losing another opportunity that you would of benefited from. and that is always the case when you're building an innovation program.

Ever since the 1st time I designed an innovation program, I get engulfed in the process of having a scientific framework that underlies the program. Then I continuously iterate at every step of the way, and this is constant everyday. Why? Because challenges and curve balls await to be solved, and here are the top 5 I've encountered:

1. The Ambidextrous of managing a program, this is a term used by thought leaders to describe having two faces. One focused on the long-term, the other on the short term. To be consistent in finding  a balance between both, is a daily struggle. One that is both sweet, and bitter.

Being patient and analyzing the critical path to building a solid infrastructure, is the best approach to this. Something I learned when combining both the rebel innovator and disciplined project manager schools of thought. Innovation project management office anyone?

2. Maintaining a consisting progress pace, with all the ad hoc and emotional intelligence sessions that is above human capacity. Once I did a 12 back to back business development sessions with healthcare startups. The last two told me that it might too much, and they were right. But you know what, I had to keep on going. because they deserved it, and I needed to complete what I started.

Build your personal program management dashboard, in whatever way that makes you comfortable. But make sure everything is captured, and you have a bird eye view on all the moving pieces. I started with excel and more than 7 sheets, now I’m shifting to notion and including my whole team in the process.

3. The constant dealing with a large amount of people, while managing all the business requirements. Success isn’t built overnight, and it’s all about people. Wether you like them or not is indifferent, you have to build authentic relationships while delivering on all your promises.

Never pass on an opportunity to have an honest decent conversation, especially when you're teaching them something of relevance.  You have to act as the beacon that pulls everyone in to safety, and it’s alright to say that you don’t know. Trust me, you’ll end up learning more than you are teaching.

4. Achieving the grandeur level of people’s expectations, I mean dreams have no limits but you do. Especially when it comes to the intangible results of your hard earned sweat and tears, you have to reflect a number that is inherently based on a ridiculous level of uncertainty. While keeping everyone calm in the process, hell we never know how many fishes we’ll catch when we go into the sea.

Do your best, but don’t waiver to the whispers. In racing, they cover a horses eyes and for a damn good reason. To focus on the end line, not please the crowd jumping behind the fences. Look for the genuine thank you’s that nobody notices, it will take you a long way and remind you that someone has benefitted from your efforts.

5. Including everyone in the discussion, even when you don’t have the energy to debate every freaking little detail and step along the way. Understand that achieving diversity, engagement, and inclusion is a prerequisite to innovation occurrence. But come on, no one has the time and energy to explain himself every single time. Regardless!

Build a communication document, something that explains the key important aspects of your strategy and action plan. Then be proactive and involve people early in the process, not just that, even include them in the decision making. Whenever they put a mark on it, they are fully dedicated to the overall objective. And keep the discourse going, even if it’s the last day at the job.

Change starts with yourself, then your family, then close friends, then everyone else.

You have to lead by example, get up every time you fall, put your trust into people, give new ideas room to breathe, and believe in the process. Yah, and once you learn something new, don’t be afraid to show it. We are all on a journey, embrace the adventure side of innovation programs. They change people, starting with you.

You can't connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Steve Jobs.

My advice, leap 5 years into the future and look backwards in retrospective. How did the small things evolve to such a big thing. Figure out the small wins, nothing ever becomes a big success over day and night. Figure those out, and get grinding!

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