Technology budgets have to cover a lot of ground these days. And with money tight and uncertain times ahead, innovation can seem like a nice-to-have more than a necessity. But it’s those who help form the future that will own it. Yes, the risks are high when it comes to R&D, but here are 5 ways to make the journey more palatable and easier to manage for all involved.

  1. Harmonize risk and creativity. Stay away from blue sky ideas and rank your new concepts based on things like speed-to-market, ease of implementation, and usability. In other words, let your creative thinkers loose, but ground your future endeavors in reality. At least for now.
  2. Put a time limit on the process. Innovation can sometimes take time. Instead of keeping projects on an open-ended timeline, set an end date for when something must launch by. If you hit roadblocks or if the idea just simply isn’t viable, better to know sooner than later.
  3. Listen to the market. Make sure you’re not working in a vacuum. Solicit feedback from your clients on what they need. Survey your industry for fresh feedback. Working from a crowdsourced idea will help mitigate risks and also make getting buy-in from the C-suite much easier.
  4. Get board approval often. Speaking of getting buy-in, make sure you’re presenting your progress and setbacks regularly to key stakeholders. Don’t wait for a year-end review. Provide monthly status reports and ask for approval for advancing to the next stage of your key projects, so leadership feels like they are a part of your achievements.
  5. Launch MVPs. From the Lean Startup school of thought, feel comfortable launching an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) anytime you can. An MVP is simply the most stripped-down version of your idea you can launch and have it actually work. From there you gather feedback, revise, and launch your improved version. Iterate perpetually until you’ve got a product your end-user loves.

While “innovate or die” may be a bit of an overstatement, it’s not too much to say if you stall or slow down your research and development, your hesitation could end up being your greatest regret just a few short years down the road.