I was lucky enough to spend part of the Christmas holiday in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Williamsburg is a wonderful step back in time to the year 1775 during the birth of the United States of America. I learned that many forefathers walked the streets of Williamsburg, greatly influencing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both documents serving as models for dozens of other young republics around the globe.
What is unique to Williamsburg compared to static museums, are the period actors. For instance, I heard a speech by Thomas Jefferson in the theater and one by Patrick Henry in the garden of the Governor’s Palace. For all practical purposes, the gentlemen speaking WERE Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. Their speech reflected the dialect of Colonial America, their britches and waistcoats screamed out a long-gone fashion style, and they replied to questions as if 225 years of history was still yet to be written.
But, sitting with other folks clad in 2010 sneakers and synthetic Gore-Tex™ on a cold December morning, I KNEW the gentlemen speaking were just actors. Very good actors, but actors, nonetheless. This Thomas Jefferson would never take pen to paper and this Patrick Henry would never shout “Give me liberty or give me death!”
By now most readers are asking themselves, what does this have to do with Innovation?
Many companies find their innovation and New Product Development (NPD) programs in a rut, doing more acting than implementing. Just as Williamsburg’s Thomas Jefferson was very inspirational and accuarte in his portrayal of America’s third president but had never served the nation in that role, many innovation programs are running along as impostors.
An impostor NPD program may have a fancy training program so all employees know the names of each stage in the gated review process. An impostor NPD program may have extensive checklists for R&D and commercial launch of the new product. An impostor NPD program may be able to give an accurate goal-oriented speech (like Williamsburg’s Patrick Henry) but never put pen to paper (like the real Thomas Jefferson).
As we move into a new year, I suggest taking a hard look at your firm’s innovation program. Take a long look at the Innovation Strategy and the NPD Processes. Is your NPD program an impostor where all the boxes get checked and “actors” say the “right” things? Or is your NPD program revolutionary, delivering on results?
For more information on a review of your NPD processes, click here.
image of Thomas Jefferson courtesy of White House
image of colonial coffee house courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg
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