Tips to Gain Buy-in, Prioritize, and Build an Innovation Culture
I wasn’t sure what to expect at this year’s Front End of Innovation conference. There has been so much emphasis on innovation I was curious how some of the world’s top minds in innovation would describe and prioritize their innovation focus. Co-leading the business model track, I also speculated how much discussion would include the essential importance of employee involvement in innovation when changing business models. A point reinforced throughout the event repeatedly – Innovation doesn’t happen easily at companies who do not have a culture of innovation, and/or leadership intent on making it a priority investment for their business. Introducing the need for or embedding innovation in a company is similar to introducing any kind of real change to an organization – you have to understand how to work through its leaders and employees in order to obtain buy in – otherwise, the organization will reject the effort.
These 6 points may help you in your justification or as input into your innovation planning process:
- Innovation is for the long term. While you may realize short term gains from winning innovation initiatives, you shouldn’t think that you will place some emphasis on innovation this year and then see how it goes and maybe do something next year. Many speakers were citing numerous stats stating how in 5 and 10 years many of the companies we’ve grown up with will no longer exist. I heard the phrase “Uber yourself before you get Kodak’d” at least 3 times. Computing costs have plummeted driving new growth in startups. Someone else almost certainly has an eye on your market share. Innovation needs to be part of your DNA if you want to be built to last.
- Shared vision, shared vision, shared vision. I heard this repeatedly from Professor and Author Vijay Govindarajan, Tone Fernandez, the former leader of the Latin Kings NY (more on that in another post), and believe it wholeheartedly myself. Define your purpose – state why you are bringing change, create a compelling reason or challenge for your employees and share it frequently.
- Incentives. Not enough companies have figured out how to align incentives. A frequent reply is “we have always done it that way and it’s a bear to change.” At the likely risk of oversimplifying, let’s say Division 1 is working on XYZ innovation. What value do they expect to bring to the business or a set of customers? Define a way to measure it so that you can manage it and compensate them accordingly. “Don’t be a greedy corporate guy, set-up an ecosystem that works.” says Professor and Author Dean DeBiase.
- Look outside of your industry for innovation ideas. Recently, I was a part of a conversation between a global eCommerce company and a global commercial real estate company who shared a common innovation denominator. You can learn much from people outside of your industry. These experts can help you identify new growth platforms AND make improvements in your current model.
- Corporate venture capital dollars are on the rise. Organizations recognizing the need for innovation and the necessity of looking outside their “wheelhouse” are spending time in local incubators, rubbing shoulders with the entrepreneurs. They’re hoping to leverage the knowledge and development of startups disrupting their space.
- Finally….., Failure. Innovation failure is becoming increasingly popular and accepted. A goal from innovation efforts, in addition to success of course, could be failure and the lessons learned from failure. A number of discussions also focused on failing as cheaply as possible. My team knows that I am less upset when they make a mistake about the mistake – I’m more encouraged to know we’ve learned something from it.
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