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When should you stop working on your innovation project?

AI generated office meeting Rene Magritte style

When should you stop working on your innovation project?

Picture this:

You are chairing an Innovation Board review meeting for Initiative X. After you kick things off, the Product Owner presents a status update:

  • Sales are growing, albeit slower than expected;
  • The Customer Acquisition Cost has come down, but by less than anticipated;

Ok, you think. Things are moving in the right direction, but there is concern about the speed and the extent of the progress.

  • The team has come up with good-sounding ideas for fixing things, such as a new marketing campaign and product feature enhancements. Still, they require extra investment, and a positive impact is not guaranteed. The team still believes in the initiative, and so the Product Owner requests continued funding, including additional investment for the improvement ideas.

What do you do?


Do you

– Allow the project to go on and approve the desired extra investment;

– Kill off the whole initiative. or

– Ask for more information. (and if so, what information)?


Your entire innovation portfolio management can be understood as your answer to the question in this article’s title: When should you stop working on an innovation?


The reality is that most innovations do not make it to market introduction and eventual success. So, the crucial challenge of good innovation portfolio management is to get better and faster in weeding out unpromising projects.

In theory, it’s easy (it always is!). Any initiative that no longer has a path to fulfilling its business case targets or Minimum Success Criteria must be stopped.

So, what makes this so difficult in practice?

To deal with the Fog of Innovation, adopt Navy Seal decision tactics

One factor that complicates the decision-making process is what we call the ‘Fog of Innovation ‘. This term refers to the inherent uncertainty and ambiguity that surrounds innovation projects. No matter the criteria you agree upon for judging a project’s progress, the picture that emerges from just looking at the data is rarely black or white. Some things are going great, and others, not so much, as in the example at the beginning of this article.


Ultimately, the decision to stop or boost any innovation project rests with you. That said, here are a few tips for improving the process leading up to the decision:

  1. Put the steering wheel in the hands of the customer NEEDS ELABORATION
  1. Think upfront about what data you need and make sure it’s available NEEDS ELABORATION
  1. To deal with the Fog of Innovation, adopt Navy Seal decision tactics NEEDS ELABORATION

I will share more about this in upcoming blog posts.


Do you have a project in your funnel where you need help with how to proceed? My ‘Do or Die challenge service’ is a structured approach designed to help your team thoroughly evaluate a project, go through a clear decision-making framework and align behind a motivated go, kill, or change recommendation in 72 hours.

If you want to explore whether this could help you, get in touch.

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