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Stop demanding S.M.A.R.T. objectives right at the beginning of an innovation project


Innovation is a complex task. Those of us who firsthand led innovation projects can attest to that. And innovation is vastly different from the day-to-day operations of a company. Because of that, innovation requires a different kind of treatment, but it rarely gets that treatment. Instead, innovation projects are treated the same way as one would treat – say, a T.V. advertising development. You would be required to know more or less all the steps on the project timeline and crown it with a SMART objective. There is nothing wrong with that, except you might not have legitimate and intelligent information to have that SMART objective at the beginning of a project. For example, you might have to develop a certain sense of your project before you can make a statement on when you are going to launch that brand, what the expected volume is in the first, second, and third years, and how much money you are expected to make, what your market share will be in those respective years, etc.


The main problem arises because most senior leadership in most companies has never led an innovation project. They have been involved, perhaps, but never actually physically led one. And this makes the biggest difference in the world.


Innovation projects are different because you are toying with so many unknowns. Everything is unknown: the product, brand name, visual identity, logo, graphics, and of course, to begin with, the concept. And this assumes that you already have an idea to start from. Frequently that, too, is missing. Therefore, with many elements missing, you are looking into an act vastly different from any other project related to day-to-day operations like developing an ad campaign. You will be uncovering and unearthing essential elements about your brand, and while doing that, you will slowly but surely give it a character, a purpose, a context, and a meaning. Once your brand starts taking shape and you receive intelligent feedback from your target audience via clever market research, you can start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and talk about specific objectives – not before.

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