What is facilitation for? 3) Making sense of too much innovation

The too Innovative company

“Before you can walk out of the door we can have 10 ideas…. ”  Board director’s comments when working on the brief

I have been working with the board of directors of an international manufacturing firm to solve the problem:
•  Good sales growth but markets maturing
•  Lots of new ideas but not sure which to work on
•  How do we make sense of too much innovation?

The approach:

The first part of the solution was to get everyone understanding the overview of the situation.
Mapping the product portfolio showed that the range was skewed toward too many star products.
This acted as the catalyst for the board to begin an open dialogue about the product range.  We could identify management strategies to apply to which products but we needed to sort the wheat from the chaff.  This was done on the day with flipcharts and paper.  Keeping the facilitation low tech allowed the discussion to flow without interruptions and it works well.

Prioritising

How to prioritise the priorities?  Especially difficult when people in the room have their pet products and a lot of emotional attachment is involved in making these decisions.
The first run identified the top three candidates for management attention.  the next stage was to help the board identify the priorities from the top candidates.
We used a variant of the GE Matrix.  This framework allowed the discussions to be facilitated focussing on rational factors and kept the emotional content under control.
Market Attractiveness Matrix
Example Market Attractiveness Matrix
This structured facilitation resulted in a clear agreed set of priorities that everyone signed up to.  They had each had their say and created the ranking factors for themselves resulting in a high degree of clarity about the way forward which they now collectively owned.
This is embedded in the business, they are all working collaboratively with renewed focus.  They have a system to manage their innovative strength and keep the existing business functioning.
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