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Identify your innovation gaps

Before you can "win" you need to understand your gaps in both capacity for innovation and your institutional capability to innovate.

This is an excerpt from “Table Stakes: A Manual for Getting in the Game of News,” published Nov. 14, 2017. Read more excerpts here.

Gap: The need for innovation versus capacity for innovation: Compare your enterprise’s cash and people capacity for innovation against what is needed:

  • Cash: Working with the CFO, CEO and others, identify how much cash you can and will dedicate each year to innovation, experimentation, change and risk taking. Just go ahead and do this. Get a number! As you’re doing this, remember: This is cash you folks are willing to bet on innovations that might fall short. If you do not have a budget line called “innovation,” then it is likely the answer to this question is “zero” – we are unwilling to lose any cash on bets that might not work out.
  • People: Identify the key people throughout the enterprise who are best suited to pursue innovation, risk taking and experimentation.   With the list in hand, ask/answer “How much time and attention are we prepared to have these folks dedicate to innovation?” Avoid the delusion of percentages like 2% of their time. Instead use increments not less than 10%. Add up all the available time and attention and you’ll have a people budget for innovation. (Pay attention to functional expertise. For example, in addition to the enterprise’s total time and attention budget for innovation, how much is available from, say, technology folks?)

Put together a full list of innovations required to (1) experiment with new products, services and audience-first approaches, (2) have what’s needed in terms of technology and tools, (3) skill up the workforce (through training as well as new hires), and (4) any other opportunities as well (e.g. an acquisition, a shift in strategic vendors, entering into a new form of business such as events marketing – and so forth).

Estimate the cash and people time required to pursue these opportunities. Compare that to what you identified as available – and you’ll have a good enough picture of any gaps in innovation capacity.

Gap: Innovation disciplines

Take this quiz and discuss it, remembering that “Yes” responses indicate gaps:

Yes No
We rarely, if ever, establish specific goals prior to embarking on any innovation or change.
We rarely, if ever, describe specific learning objectives prior to embarking on any innovation or change.
We do not have an innovation budget of money and people’s time/effort.
We fail to distinguish our levels of confidence and certainty prior to embarking on any innovation or change; that is, while we sometimes discuss assumptions, we fail to name those we are most worried about versus those we are most confident about.
We do not specifically ask or discuss just how confident we are about having the capabilities and capacities required for innovations and changes at hand.
We neither ask nor answer just how confident we are that a market exists for possible new products or services.
We do not have well-established criteria for comparing and choosing among different possible innovations.
We neither have an individual executive nor a team or committee responsible and accountable for managing innovation and change.
We often pursue innovations strictly within the newsroom or strictly on the business side – as opposed to the entire enterprise working together.
Not that many people in our enterprise understand the difference between continuous improvement versus fundamental innovation – or why they matter.
We are not as adept as we should be at failing fast and failing cheap in order to convert uncertainties into go/no go choices for moving forward with innovations.
We don’t have a portfolio of innovations underway that we manage on a persistent basis.