The third competency needed to have a full up breakthrough innovation capability is acceleration. Acceleration activities ramp up the fledgling business to a point where it can stand on its own relative to other business platforms in the division that’s eventually going to house the new business.. Whereas incubation reduces market and technical uncertainty through experimentation and learning, acceleration focuses on building a business to a level of some predictability in terms of sales and operations. As one Innovation Director told us:
“I need a landing zone for projects that the business unit does not feel comfortable with. If I transfer these projects too early, the business unit leadership lets them die. I need a place to grow them until they can compete with ongoing businesses in the current operating units for resources and attention.”
The skills needed are those required for managing high growth businesses. Acceleration involves exploitation rather than either exploration (which Discovery requires) or experimentation (which Incubation requires). The activities of acceleration include investing to build the business and its necessary infrastructure, focusing and responding to market leads and opportunities, and beginning to institute repeatable processes for typical business processes such as manufacturing and order delivery, customer contact and support. Acceleration involves turning early customer leads into a set of qualified customers and predictable sales forecasts. Similar to an independent start up firm in first stage growth, acceleration pursues top line revenue rather than bottom line profitability.