Why Is Innovation So Often Synonymous With Disappointment?

Harvard Business Review

Because a pure idea is a beautiful thing, and seeing it get mauled as it struggles to become something real can be highly disappointing. It's painful to see your "bridge to the moon" end up as a mere woodshed.

Welcome to HBR's new Insight Center: Beyond the Breakthrough: Executing on Innovation. This four-week series addresses the reality problem that always besets great ideas, and our thesis in curating it is that reality isn't a problem — or at least it doesn't have to be. We believe that reality too can be a beautiful thing, although, granted, it's more of an acquired taste.

We'll take a close look at the execution aspects of innovation. In other words, you've birthed the breakthrough idea — now what? How do you nurture it, raise it, put it on its own two feet? How do you make sure it has an impact on the world? We'll draw on a range of writers with a range of insights.

Ethan Mollick of Wharton will reveal the overlooked value of individual middle managers in executing on innovation. The best project managers, he writes, have a "magical" impact; companies need to do a better job of supporting and encouraging them. Scott Anthony will show how organizations can improve an idea's chances by ensuring full commitment to innovation. Josh Lerner of Harvard Business School urges companies to look beyond the usual R&D approach to consider becoming corporate venture capitalists themselves, a point he expands on in his article "Corporate Venturing" in the October 2013 issue of HBR.

Bart Barthelemy and Candace Dalmagne-Rouge of Wright Brothers Institute argue that execution is inextricably tied to identifying the right problem to solve, and they show how people as varied as illusionists and set designers can help an organization gain insights from beyond the corporate world. Gary Hamel will explore how companies build their innovation engines.

We'll also look at how organizations are using crowdfunding internally to bring their new ideas to life, as well as the qualities that help great entrepreneurs execute on their ideas.

Turning innovative ideas into new products and services isn't easy, and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for doing so. But there are insights that can help you travel the rocky road of executing on innovation, and raise your odds of success. We look forward to sharing some of those with you and hearing your views on what it takes to turn innovative ideas into reality.

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