Engaging the right people is the single most important task.

A key to successful innovation is engaging those critical individuals within an organization who have considerable potential to provide insightful and constructive input. However, these key individuals are often unable to participate in broader innovation work due to scheduling constraints. Demonstration programs are staged situations which spur interaction and innovation by creating a structured and scheduled environment which enables the participation of these key individuals by taking into consideration their constraints.

Two forms of innovation

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There are two forms of innovations, those generated by single individuals through some general invention, which is gradually crystallized into a commercially viable product or service. Secondly, those which are the result of an iterative process involving a large group of people, and going through its ups and downs before finally maturing into a successful marketable offering. Most organizations are occupied with the latter type of innovation. Attracting and maintaining the interests of those critical knowledgeable individuals that have considerable potential to provide insightful and constructive input into the innovation process down the road is of utmost importance. Unfortunately these individuals are normally occupied by a multitude of other responsibilities as well. So there is a big risk that the amount of time and energy they will devote to the innovation undertaking will be restricted. Consequently, the innovation process must be designed in such a way as to enable these individuals to provide the highest possible contribution to the project while also respecting their limitations regarding time and efforts available.

Dialogue through demonstrations

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The mechanism for dealing with the above constraints is to purposefully design one part of the innovation undertaking according to the specific constraints relating to the engagement of the most critical individuals. To match their requirements one needs to design the undertaking as a demonstration program. The demonstration program logic is one of predefined releases with a fixed timetable. These programs provide these key individuals with a tentative view of how the innovation process will proceed and indicate the expected contributions for the next two to three upcoming releases. Thus allowing key individuals to mentally prepare for their contribution at the predefined events during which they will interact with other key individuals engaged in the project.

The demonstration program will be structured like a drama, with the overall logic understandable for all involved. However, the detailed manuscript will not be known before the actual event takes place. Retrospectively, the interaction among the individuals during these events will represent a significant portion of the whole drama.

Staging the demonstration project then becomes the overall container for the entire innovation undertaking. Each event then represents a frank and thorough evaluation of the progress achieved and gives direction for the next phase. But through the clear timelines the innovation process becomes one of disciplined creativity, driven by a more holistic design approach instead of being a technical aggregation of a large amount of semi-independent tasks. Providing this platform means that the two other platforms, factbases and collaboration portals, must also work as intended.