Beyond the MVIS

Earlier this week, I recommend reading Scott Anthony’s article in the December edition of the Harvard Business Review titled, “Building an Innovation Engine in 90 Days”. The paper describes an approach to creating what the authors call a Minimum Viable Innovation System (MVIS) in a very short period of time. The main point of my earlier post was that the new Chief Innovation Officer must execute projects using the MVIS approach while building a more robust and sustainable innovation business system.

The authors recognize the need for this in the final section of the article named, “Scaling up the MVIS.” They recommend, 1) “hardwiring components of the MVIS that are working well in more-formal systems,” 2) “creating specialized functions to carry out parts of the innovation process,” and 3) removing the large barriers to innovation that exist inside organizations. They go further to remind readers that the “S” in MVIS stands for “system,” not to shortchange on personnel, and that “how you treat failure is more important that how you reward success.”

These are all good pieces of advice. The trouble I have is that the scaling up part is presented as something that presumably occurs after you have successfully executed initiatives using the framework. It treats the MVIS system as an experiment that will enable you to try things and build from the experience. Sounds great, but in many environments we can’t afford to wait. We need to build the engine while the car is driving down the highway. 

The framework that I am outlining for the Chief Innovation Officer’s Playbook has elements of the MVIS approach built into the early stages of transformation, but I also propose starting to deliberately build the more robust, long-term innovation engine from the beginning. We need to produce while working on our factory.