[Leadership laws] The innovation law of the diva

Innovators' mantra of "DVF" is not enough. You also need "A" (Agreeability or Acceptability), making "DVFA" (aka diva).

[Leadership laws] The innovation law of the diva
Do complete work across "DVF" ... and "A" too!


Innovators' mantra of "DVF" (Desirability, Viability, Feasibility) is not enough. You also need "A" (Agreeability or Acceptability; your pick*), making "DVFA" (aka diva).

The "A" answers what your stakeholders and org will actually approve based on their real needs, priorities, and incentives, separately from the objective "quality" of your work.

Spend as much time and effort on "A" work as on the "DVF" work.

The innovation law of the diva

The mantra of "DVF" (Desirability, Viability, Feasibility) is not enough.
You also need "A" (Agreeability or Acceptability; your pick*), making "DVFA" (aka diva).

Quick description

Innovation work often fails even though it is desirable, viable, and feasible. Organization-internal factors can scuttle efforts just as easily as D, V, and F.

For example, your leaders might not approve more funding. You might get undermined or discredited. Team members may be assigned to other projects. The list of challenges is long.

And those "organizational antibodies" are often being quite rational! Innovators represent change.

That change may cause general uncertainty and worries, sure. But it may also causes very concrete and reasonable pushback: If you succeed, stakeholders and partners may have a harder time reaching their assigned objectives, for which they get paid. Few people try to get smaller bonuses, miss out on promotions, or do the opposite of what the organization's owners have asked of them.

Litmus tests

  • Do you know your stakeholders' incentives and related success metrics--both formal and informal ones? (E.g., you should know not just how your stakeholders will earn a bonus or not but also what causes their boss to yell at or praise them day-to-day.)
  • Does your project approach help your stakeholders achieve their formal and informal incentives?
  • What are your stakeholders' style and individual needs?
  • Does your interaction with them play nice with their preferred style and their needs?
  • Have you designed your solution and interactions around your organization to acknowledge that "culture will easily eat strategy (and design) for breakfast?"

How to do it

The point of these innovation laws is to have them be useful in many settings. So there are many ways to use them.

In general, tackle the "A" from the very start of your work. Put just as much effort into it as you do into the "DVF" parts of your project.

As a rule of thumb, spend at least one day a week every week (better yet a full FTE) on hands-on Agreeability work. Do not delegate it. Assign that work to the person on your team who's best at it. It might be your team leader or product owner!



*Reasonable people are still debating whether "Agreeability" or "Acceptability" better captures this point. My money is on "Agreeability," FWIW.