Managing Innovation While Focusing on Scale
LESSON LEARNED: Align incentives and have clear, harmonized objectives to manage innovation and scale simultaneously.
The Going Deep sub-component was an innovation-focused project within the larger Sanitation Marketing Scale-Up (SMSU) project that focused on at-scale implementation of core project activities. The different natures of innovation and scaling between the sub-component and the main project created tension at times, with the former operating within an environment of flexibility and uncertainty and the latter focused on optimizing efficiency.
This tension, when coupled with rapid growth, led to growing pains. The project experienced tension in having to share resources, especially staff time, across Going Deep and Scale-Up, which had the same goals but different focuses. The challenge arose because the same staff members were assigned to specific tasks in both SMSU and Going Deep, the former whose focus was to optimize efficiency of proven models and the latter to iterate on innovations.
While the focus of scale-up is to recruit and train as many successful businesses as possible, those successful businesses could only optimize their potential to sell if Going Deep identified effective market penetration strategies. Going Deep strategies would only be relevant if there are competent, well-trained businesses to take the ideas to scale. To ensure that project activities reflected the harmonized nature of SMSU, the project aligned incentives such that staff were evaluated on how well they coordinated with and supported the other aspects of SMSU outside their immediate responsibilities.
Incentives can be used to leverage the productive tension between innovation and scale and optimize the benefits of each. Managing innovation within a project focused on scale will be the key to continued growth and impact.