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5 Errors in the innovation process that must be avoided at all costs

Innovation processes are the most demanding processes in companies. Innovations act with the future, so the path and the goal are only partly known and predictable and one acts in an uncertain environment. In addition, there are dynamics such as unexpected changes in the environment that make planning and implementation even more difficult. Another difficulty is the high interdisciplinarity of innovation processes, where almost every area of the company is involved or affected.

Innovation projects have very special requirements and success components due to their novelty and the difficulty of predicting and planning them.

Many dangers and challenges lurk in the development and establishment of innovations. They make excellent and solid process and project management for innovations an indispensable success factor.


If you want to develop new products and services with high effectiveness and efficiency and then successfully earn money on the market, the following mistakes must not be undermined in any case.

Meticulous detailed planning

Planning gives a feeling of transparency and security and therefore many tend to plan an innovation project in detail from start to finish. Unfortunately, however, due to uncertainty, dynamics and unpredictability, innovations cannot be planned in practice.

However, this does not mean that planning should be completely dispensed with. It is recommended to have a rough planning, for example on the basis of phases, to provide orientation. The planning is carried out step by step. The first phase is planned in detail and the next phase is planned towards completion. The main reason is that a lot of relevant information is not yet available at the beginning and only arises during the course of the project.

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Another helpful method for innovation is Scrum as an agile project management method. Here a project is also planned step by step and iteratively. In addition to agility, it ensures flexibility, focus and speed. 

But there are other potential dangers. If one were to plan a project in detail right from the start, one would have to make constant corrections and adjustments. Planning would therefore be an unnecessary effort and waste of resources. But there is another problem here. If one were to plan an innovation project meticulously, one would limit the scope for solutions right from the start. It prevents you from playing around and discovering new opportunities and possibilities by chance. On the contrary, rough planning allows for creative freedom. 

adherence to assumptions

Innovations deal with new things and with the future, which we do not know and which unfortunately cannot be foreseen. Therefore, at the start of the project, comprehensive information on customer needs, market and environmental conditions, etc. must be collected in the front end of the innovation process. The innovation concept and product strategy are developed on the basis of this information. This includes, for example, which customer needs you want to satisfy, what the target markets are, how you want to differentiate yourself from the competition or which risks have to be considered.

One must admit to oneself that one works only conditionally with facts but with assumptions. The big mistake would be to set these assumptions in stone as objectively correct, especially when it comes to customer wishes.

However, the aim must be to continuously check these assumptions and to validate and adapt the concept and product strategy on the basis of new findings. Here, for example, the principles of the Lean Startup method, which also works iteratively, can be applied. We take up the most risky assumptions and try to test them as quickly and simply as possible with prototypes at the future customer.

The most important thing here is that all project participants and decision-makers are aware that one works with assumptions and not with facts, and what consequences this can have.

Acceleration of the innovation process

Many believe that the most important success factor is to be the first. Managers are tempted to speed up the innovation process, for example by skipping stages or shortening process steps. But all this happens at the expense of quality and results. After all, what is the point of being the first on the market or faster if the product then does not meet market requirements and internal and external quality demands? This can lead to high follow-up costs or degrade the new product to a flop.

There are several ways to accelerate the innovation process. For example, more resources can be made available. Or you can eliminate idle times and idle times and make quick and timely decisions. But you must never skip or skip necessary steps.

Control with financial figures

As with the other points, the issue of the unpredictable future also plays a major role here. You can only plan innovation to a limited extent and you work with assumptions. This makes it all the more tricky when you try to put financial figures in the room.

Corporate leaders often demand that everything be measured against financial indicators such as sales and earnings. At the beginning of a project, business cases are already created, although one does not yet know what the product will look like in the end. And therefore one cannot say what the product will cost or the customer is willing to pay. As long as you do not know all the essential facts, which you usually only have at the end of the development, these figures are castles in the air. Of course, it requires financial figures to determine whether you are in the target corridor, but you have to be cautious about it.

There is also another risk. If you stick to financial facts, you can lose sight of the strategic potential. After all, it is not only direct returns that play a role in innovations. You have to look at other opportunities, for example it is a basic innovation on the basis of which further new products can be created. Or are there synergies in the product portfolio that this new product can be used to sell additional services?

Acting rationally and sticking to hard financial ratios can kill off the best innovation. Therefore one should always consider the whole when making decisions, especially the soft topics.

Project completion with product availability

A frequently observed situation is that the innovation process is concluded with the availability of the product on the market. But this is where the hard work starts, because a new product does not sell itself. But you not only have to convince the customer, you have to start in your own company. You have to win over, motivate and train the sales team for the product in order to bring it to market. This is an obstacle in many companies.

In this sense, change management internally on the one hand and the start of sales to the outside world on the other hand are given high priority for innovation success. This includes a lot of persuasion, training, sales actions, marketing campaigns, etc. The often seen problem is that after product development not only the focus and the commitment for the project are lost, but above all that the necessary resources are missing. It must therefore become clear in the company that the innovation project is only over when the product has successfully reached the customer.



Conclusion - 5 mistakes in the innovation process that must be avoided at all costs

Innovations are very different from traditional projects where you can work with predictable facts. Therefore, innovation projects, especially because of the novelty and the difficult predictability and predictability, have very special requirements and success components that must be taken into account.


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Jannik Böckenholt

As an expert for New Business Development, Jannik is your reliable companion for new commercial ventures. When it comes to the restructuring of innovation processes or the application of innovation methods, the learned project manager guides you to your objective step by step, while making sure there is fun along the way with his inspiring storytelling in the workshops he moderates.

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