Boost your Innovation Success rate: do NOT do an RFP

Categories: Innovation Insights

I recently spent some time going through all our old prospects, especially those where we had ‘failed’ to win their business. I was inspired by a chance discussion with a new contact from December, a global firm. They wanted to start planning a large implementation, but the project team, stacked with senior people, wanted to develop their own plan, and then work through procurement to design a Request for Proposal (RFP).

Now, I remembered the client name as a prospect from 2004. I did my research in our internal contact database, and sure enough there was a VP from HR, another from Corporate Strategy, and a small cadre of IT professionals. On a conference call with this new group, I asked what had happened to the super-urgent project from 2004. Chairs noticeably shifted in the room, and a murmur of whispers echoed through the phone. Apparently, someone shyly explained, that group did not go anywhere and their project had disappeared.

“OK, that’s great. So how are you doing things differently from the last group? Nothing as far as I can see. But, I can help you change that and turn this around before it goes wrong”.

Long and the short on this one – we have a launch innovation pilot, combined with an open innovation component (asking lead customers around the world) – all set up in record time.

So back to my Innovation Success rate. My walk through the contacts database intrigued me. I spent some time calling the clients where we lost to find out what had happened to the projects.

And the results? I have some bad news for people who like formal procurement processes. Based on my sample of around 50 firms, those companies who ran a formal RFP or RFIs (request for information) for an Innovation or Idea Management software system and business process have a failure rate of 90%. And with more detail:

  • 52% (26 firms) projects did not proceed beyond planning phase
  • 24% (12) pilots did not get far enough to be implemented (one took a year!)
  • 12% (6) pilots did not convince management and the project was cancelled
  • 12% (6) change of business priority or loss of project team left project abandoned
  • 8% (4) programs successful implemented to some extent

We have found a material difference between firms with vision – and those with an RFP approach. I guess I give myself away with this statement. Many of the groups running RFPs were run by committees with no one senior individual willing to take a risk and champion a real vision. Yes, the RFP process itself can be brutal and in some cases create a huge sense of initial mistrust between the client and the successful vendor. But it is the lack of vision and individual commitment that is the real killer.

So, if you want to boost your chance of innovation success, do not fail at the first hurdle. Work with a vision – and work with a vendor who can share, and expand, your vision.


3 Responses to “Boost your Innovation Success rate: do NOT do an RFP”

  1. Is it time for some training in Integrative ThinkingTM all round?

  2. who knows – it *might* be time for some thinking with a TM at the end. The symbol obviously indicates that you are serious about what you mean – a R for registered trademark would make your comment even more urgent as that would imply that you have paid money to the USPTO to protect your name.

    Thanks for your comment all the same – and sorry to be mean!

  3. Thank you for your illuminating response Mark. I will bear it in mind when considering tools such as yours to add to the Integrative ImprovementTM approach.

    However, I was surprised by its content. Some would think it is the sort of response that would kill off collaboration and innovation anywhere.

    Sorry for pointing this out but I hope it helps you in your long journey in understanding human behaviour.

    By the way, my trademark is registered. There are other registration bodies in the world besides the USPTO.

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