For more than 12 years, my husband got up every morning to take our yellow Labrador Retriever, Nilla, to the local park. Starbucks in hand, he would sling sticks high in the air, sending Nilla bounding across fields to retrieve them.
Returning (with stick), Nilla invariably got distracted by additional stuff to pick up. You could almost see the thought bubble: Oh, what’s that? Another stick, yippee! Oh, and there’s a plastic bottle, they make a great crunchy sound. I’ll take that, too. And wait, there’s a tennis ball — I know I can bring that, too. She would come back proud, mouth bulging with her finds — frustrated when she stopped to pick up one more and unable to stretch her mouth quite enough. At times the choices became so numbered that she’d open her mouth and all her treasures would come spilling to the ground. She scrambled to stuff them all in again, and it was not uncommon for the first to be left behind in the shuffle.
One item of focus was never enough for Nilla. Have you discovered that it’s often never enough for innovation projects as well? The allure of “more, more, more” is strong. Let’s start this project to demonstrate ‘x,’ the innovation lead says. “And while we’re at it, we can also throw in ‘y,’ says a marketing manager. “And maybe ‘z’ as well,” someone else chimes in from operations. As things keep piling on, the objectives become muddled, the focus drifts and diffuses, and the metrics end up weakened by too many variables. Captured by the allure of more, a primary objective can be left behind — just like Nilla’s stick.
As any Labrador Retriever owner knows, the eternal puppyhood of this breed brings years of joy and laughter. However, such exuberance translates to a mass of frustration when found in an overburdened and unfocused innovation initiative.
Here’s a challenge for your week: Make a review list of your current innovation initiatives. Have too many things been piled on to your original focus? Has your original “stick” been left behind? It’s rarely too late to reclaim your focus.