Launching a new project often means racing to hire the expertise you need right away. But there are ways of accessing the people you want, and the communities they are part of, before you post a job. Bringing on board a qualified intern – a graduate student or postdoc – means you get an expert at the beginning of your project, providing you with insight into the kind of qualities you’ll eventually need.
By building that approach into your overall innovation strategy you not only get the benefit of the intern’s knowledge, you reduce your risk knowing that when you do post a role, you are targeting the right audiences and asking for the right expertise.
All your customers need solutions to their challenges, but do you know what those challenges are? One key piece of advice is to involve your customers when launching new initiatives. That’s the antithesis of what some companies do, which is to create a product, then determine whether there is a market for it.
By regularly integrating your market – whether they are internal or external – into your R&D strategy, you’re able to understand what their needs are at every stage, allowing you to develop the right solutions. That means checking in frequently with your customers to track the process, test ideas, and collect data. It requires being agile enough to adjust your project to refine the product, tweak the process, and efficiently manage the budget.
Research & development, according to The Conference Board of Canada, “improves only when businesses start spending more.”
Just spending money, however, does not make you innovative. Spending it smartly and constantly re-evaluating does.
Putting processes in place to ensure you are continually getting information and feedback means you can adjust your budgets as you go, ensuring your capital is being spent in the most efficient way. Spending smartly is also understanding that there are methods of making your budget go further. Both government and non-government sources have funds available to support your research and innovation projects, so it’s important to know what is out there to assist you at the right time in your process.
Overcoming challenges isn’t just a series of unrelated tasks. All the players in the ecosystem – the talent, the market, the financing, stakeholder buy-in – must be integrated into your overall strategy. The Harvard Business Review puts it simply: “Strategically aligned enterprises have a much better chance of winning in today’s challenging business environment*.”
To do that, you need to make sure that no one works in a silo; that you have a cohesive strategy and that your entire organization – HR, R&D, and finance – understands it.
Externally, too, your ecosystem must be connected: from your talent search to your academic partnerships to your funding quest – all need to be seamlessly integrated. And the final key piece? Make sure your internal strategies and your external strategies are aligned.
*How Aligned Is Your Organization, HBR, February 2017