[This article appeared in the March 25, 2011 Triangle Business Journal]

‘Probable’ results do attract capital

When it comes to innovative ideas, there is no shortage; organizations and individuals come up with new ideas every day. What these entities are missing is how to go from idea, to innovation, to successful “product” offerings.

When it comes to taking research, invention, and technology from the conceptual to realizable there is a significant gap, which is usually a funding or commercialization gap: something fails to make it to market because funding isn’t available. However, a more accurate way to look at the inability to obtain funding is to look at why funding isn’t forthcoming. Lack of funding is usually not a problem, but rather a symptom, indicating a problem with the elements of the business or the potential for the proposed innovation.

When an invention or even an idea has significant market potential, then it is more attractive than an idea whose potential is less. However, mere potential is not enough. The ability to translate potential to probable outcomes is what investors buy. Understanding what enables one product or technology to make it to market while another doesn’t requires insight into the differences in the infrastructure and capability of the organization or team.  The difference is most often in the ability to demonstrate capability to execute – the steps to get funding and develop the potential into a marketable, desired solution. Funding is not the gap. The funding gap is in fact an execution gap, and the ability to translate the invention into an “innovation” into a business, revenues, products, and success is what takes and idea and makes it reality.

So the bridge from invention to innovation is a knowledge or implementation gap where the innovation-execution process has not been established to build a bridge from the lab to the marketplace.

It is critical that an innovation infrastructure—team, objectives, management processes, and the overall organization—be created and implemented early in the research and invention process. The gap in funding and commercial success is shortened or eliminated in organizations that combine the ability to innovate with the capability to manage and control the processes necessary to convert the research into commercial product.

The disconnect between innovation management and creating an operational system comes when the structures imposed on an organization/ entity are those of rigid planning and heavy levels of control … or on the other extreme of the spectrum, with no controls and discipline because the organization is “entrepreneurial” and “creative” without corporate constraints.  In the real world, in a company in which there is zero control and alignment of activities, nothing gets accomplished. However, the flip side of this reality is that the typical, traditional corporate structures, managed methods, planning and control do not work for innovation management and the transformation of ideas to viable products.

The two systems are different but equally important for the long-term sustainable organizations. Without innovation, a company gets left behind, without the ability to produce products and profits. But the revenue and profit generation – cost reduction and production maximize the return on investment in research and product development. At the core of successes is the ability to have two different and equally important groups within an entity or to be able to team, acquire or otherwise retain the capability you don’t have. If you are innovative and can manage have a strong production ability, then there are few limits to how successful you can be.

Copyright © 2011 F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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