“If something’s not working, we owe it to ourselves, and the taxpayers, to try something different.”
How do we know we’re investing our very limited resources in solving the right problems? How do we better predict which ideas and solutions are more likely to deliver mission outcomes? These are questions we’ve heard time and again over the past two years from leaders across the US Department of Defense. While generally supportive of fostering innovation among their teams, they are unsure of what that means in practice.
We started with the premise that there were people inside the organization who had really good ideas they were not able to turn into a reality, and soon discovered a number of barriers keeping people from activating their ideas. In a highly technical organization where everyone wants to be an expert, many individuals were simply afraid to speak up for fear of being told it’s already been done, it’s a bad idea or of being ridiculed for not knowing.
With the help of a Lean Startup Co. Faculty coach, the organization quickly realized they needed to establish standards to guide individuals in developing their ideas, and leaders in evaluating them. Within a few short months, they created a three-phase, structured, data-driven innovation framework that encourages grassroots innovation while guiding leaders through resourcing decisions.
An exploration phase, which gives individuals a starting point and support to help discover if their idea is solving an important problem for customers.
The prototyping phase to run experiments and build prototypes in order to gather initial data.
The funded Product/Mission-Fit phase, which is producing and scaling the idea.
- Because Senior Leaders were bought-in to the guiding standards, they’re better positioned to make smarter innovation investment decisions with their limited resources.
- Team Member’s now have clarity in their roles, where they are in the process, and what they need to do to move forward.
- Groups can self-form, self-organize and get significantly more done on a shorter timeline.
- Prototyping with game-changing speed because of the ability to maneuver and come to a consensus quickly.
- The possibility of expanding the innovation framework to other sites.