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  • Writer's pictureDiane Pierson

Four Ways to Avoid Failure to Scale

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

If innovation that fails to scale is “the proliferation of a thousand tiny flowers that don’t grow bigger over time,” how can you break the cycle and successfully scale your promising innovation?

First, you have to know that the very strengths that got you where you are today may actually hinder scale. Last week, in Part 1 of this blog, I shared three reasons why scale fails:

Why Scale Fails - Summary

  • An Innovative Team. Scale is a unique skillset that passionate Innovators often don’t have.

  • Abundant Resources. Existing resources are busy with existing products; scale of the new is not a priority.

  • Loyal Customers. Loyal customers are invested in the products they have today, not the new directions you’re taking in the future.

How Can You Scale to Win?

Innovative employees, strong established products and loyal customers are our dream. Our purpose of scaling beyond Innovation in the first place is to achieve these very things. But, you must take care how you leverage existing resources to scale successfully. Here are four ideas to help:

#1: Implement fluid work teams. Move Innovation and Scale specialists off and on projects when needed. Ongoing strategic direction can be provided by the Market Strategist. Ask for volunteers – chances are you'll get the right people for each cycle more easily than you think.

#2: Build “alongside.” Within your existing infrastructure, existing customers and products will always trump the new. Maybe they should. To enable Scale, create a team whose success is defined by the new opportunity, and incent the Maintenance teams to enable them. A good example is the sales specialist/sales generalist model, where both are responsible for revenue but the specialist brings expertise on the new offering and the generalist focuses on relationship management.

#3: Shine a bright light. Make sure the entire company understands the new effort including who’s doing what, how success will be measured and what it means to the company.

#4: Fund realistically. The reason Innovation should be cheap is because Scale is not. A lean team performs well, a starving team dies. Can you reallocate resources from mature products? Do you have the ability and appetite to get outside funding? If you can't increase funding for promising innovations to drive success at scale, pursue an opportunity that can succeed with less.

In business, it’s easy to drop a seed and grow a tiny flower. To create a strong and healthy plant, however, requires ongoing care and enough open space to reach the sun.

About the Author

Diane Pierson is the Founder and Principal Market Strategist of Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy enabling successful product innovation for tech companies through strategic focus and powerful go-to-market strategies. Diane is also a visiting instructor at Pragmatic Institute. Contact Diane at


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