Congratulations! You’ve been awarded the privilege of organizing the effort to implement innovation at your company. Maybe you’ve followed my advice in the last few articles and have shown enough documentation to demonstrate the value of implementing innovation at your organization. Now that you have senior management’s attention, what’s next? Where do you start to organize everything needed to create an innovation strategy?
There is already a huge amount of information available about how to create an innovation strategy. Many of the top articles I’ve found have a common theme: “You Need an Innovation Strategy” by Gary P. Pisano; “Mapping Your Innovation Strategy” by Scott Anthony, Matt Eyring and Lib Gibson; and “How to Form an Innovation Strategy” by Scott Anthony. Many of the articles you’ll find on innovation strategy all follow a common theme, “...we suggest that companies begin innovation efforts by creating an innovation strategy that details clear targets and tactics.” With all of these available articles, why pay attention to this one?
Have you ever met people who are invested in keeping things the way they are? These people will fight against innovation. This is just one of the many things you should know before you start to formulate an innovation strategy.
I’ve been in the innovation implementation trenches before. Learn from me where the landmines are so you can avoid them.
For those of you who are an executive with a budget for innovation, or if you are someone who has convinced an executive that time and effort should be invested in innovation, this next series of articles is for you. We will review all of the things that should be included in PLANNING to create an an innovation strategy. In other words, these articles are going to review information you should gather to PREPARE yourself and your executives to help create your innovation strategy. This information will be needed when all of the senior executives gather to create the innovation strategy, including what is in and what is out of scope of the innovation project.
There are two areas of information that should be gathered to ensure senior management has what they need when meeting to discuss creating an innovation strategy and project:
Because there are people in the world who are very invested in keeping things the way they are - and innovation is opposite of this - you really should take the time to look at point #1 above and determine how available your executives, leadership, and employees are to introducing innovation into your organization. Taking time to evaluate the readiness of your organization first will help determine how much work there will be during the innovation rollout.
This and the next couple of articles are going to discuss how to assess how ready your organization is to accept innovation. To put it as politely as possible, you should know in advance the amount of employee and leadership development needed to get as many people as possible on board the innovation train.
Much of this is basic project planning 101. The question is whether you know what questions to ask, specific to innovation, to gather enough information to present to the innovation planning committee.
We are going to review three major areas to help assess the current state of “innovation readiness” in your organization:
We’ll go into all of this in great detail over the next few articles to help you avoid the pitfalls I’ve encountered and also so you can learn from all the successes I’ve had in implementing an innovation strategy. Stay tuned!
Over the last few articles, we’ve discussed the absolute fundamental principle behind innovation — it comes from your employees. Yes, it can come from other places, such as stakeholders and investors as stated by the Conscious Capitalism book by Mackey and Sisodia. It also can come from ‘crowd innovation’. Both of these utilize people external to your organization.
Employees see opportunities first hand every day. The question then becomes how do you get innovative ideas from them?
We started a laundry list of things to do for employees in “Innovation - Where to Start (Part 1)”. This leads to the question — which came first the chicken or the egg? What do you put into place first?
These where-to-start innovation articles are for those of you with a limited budget and limited resources. Doing all this at once is just not possible.
The information I’m sharing is for the troublemakers who are taking a stand to make things better, regardless of how outside of your job description it is. You need to collect data, document value, and propose to executives why they should listen to you. I was in that situation for many years and now I’m passing my experience onto you.
Mark Murphy contributed an article to Forbes, “Three Tools To Inspire Innovation From Your Employees.” His ideas range from leadership involvement to designating autonomy time. His last idea, “...make time for sharing these observations at regular staff meetings.” Again, we’re at the chicken and egg scenario. Do you train leadership to ask for innovations, which essentially would require management approval (and possibly a budget for leadership training), or do you start even simpler (and cheaper) and present possible innovations?
It’s my opinion that if you are starting a grassroots effort to get innovation started at your organization, first get the ball rolling with the least amount of effort possible.
That means getting a few innovations documented to show the value of simply asking for ideas from employees or registering your own ideas (point #1 above). This would allow you to document the potential value of your efforts, which can be used to persuade management to look at providing a budget for leadership training and, eventually, innovation process development (points 2 & 3 above).
So where to start? Start small. Start lean. Start by learning and documenting basic innovations to show how eventually your organization can reap the benefits of being an undercover boss 24/7.
When starting innovation, the most important aspects are the foundation principles from which the innovation comes. The most important aspect to remember is where innovation comes from - employees. Some companies are “Using the Crowd as an Innovation Partner,” but that’s a way to “answer the most vexing innovation and research questions.” I’m talking about simple, straight-forward ways for any leader to implement innovation in any organization.
Bill Fischer contributed an article to Forbes stating, “Most employees don’t believe that they are looked to for innovation. Good ideas are abundant within our workforces, but we don’t invite them in.”
This is a fundamental principle about where to begin to find innovative ideas. There are a few more questions that need to be answered, such as:
All of these issues can be addressed in due time. But first, the question is whether you believe the fundamental principle that Bill Fisher discusses in his article. Before approaching the first step, do you know which direction to go?
Tony Robbins gave a great analogy about strategy. Even if what you are doing is as simple as going to see the sunset. “You can be all excited about seeing a sunset. If you start to run East as hard as you can … you’ve got the wrong strategy.” I’m helping you run toward innovation. It’s toward your employees.
Greg Satell recently published the article “We Are At The Dawn of a New Era of Innovation. Will You Still Be Able to Compete?” which begins by talking about Wharton Professor David Robertson's new book on innovation, The Power of Little Ideas. What piques my enthusiasm is David’s quote, “Disrupt yourself or be disrupted!” Why am I so passionate about this approach? Because it requires internal employees to provide innovations to disrupt the way things are. This is motivation for all the troublemaker employees who want to make things better to voice their opinions and be heard!
Throughout my entire career, I’ve been one of those troublemakers who insisted on proposing ideas to make things better. When I voiced my opinions, one of two scenarios took place:
All three have two common elements ANY leader in ANY company can implement:
All it takes is a little effort to reap the benefits from innovation. Are you ready?