According to the World Economic Forum 10 innovative jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago included:  application developer, social media manager, Uber driver, driverless car engineer, cloud computing specialist, big data analyst/data scientist, sustainability manager, YouTube content creator, drone operator, millennial generational expert.  How do those jobs come about? How do organizations drive innovation?

Here are some things organizations do to drive innovation:

  • Embed innovative roles in commercial teams
  • Create insulated innovation team (e.g., Google X) or innovation labs (e.g., Lowe’s)
  • Rotate business-side people through the innovation group — often to provide commercial expertise, or help make introductions to customers who might be willing to test something new and provide feedback
  • Or the reverse — export innovation team members to the business unit that will be responsible for launching a project, so there’s someone involved who is knowledgeable and passionate about it.

    qimono / Pixabay

So why do attempts to implement innovation often seem to fail? According to Scott Kirsner in an April 2017 HBR article, “The Stage Where Most Innovation Projects Fail,” most innovative projects tend to fail when the effort is made to transition them to the commercial team. 

So why do these transitions seem to fail?  Several reasons, including:  

  • A lack of accountability and incentives
  • Lack of prioritization by leadership and lack of ownership by the business team
  • Inadequate communications and measurements of success: not factoring in inadequately funded projects
  • Little to no help with roll-out: no teams moving from the innovation lab to the commercial side 
  • Insufficient resources to solving issues that arise

In McKinsey’s, “Creating an innovation culture,” the author Dr. Waguih Ishak suggests that an innovation culture needs to be created– not become part of the existing process per se.  Rather, authors Steve Blank and Pete Newell suggest in a September 2017 HBR piece, “What Your Innovation Process Should Look Like,“ you need a process that operates with speed and urgency — a process that curates and prioritizes problems, ideas, and technologies. Very different from many corporates processes that are based on  ensuring consistency, and adherence to regulatory and legal standards. 

As it’s starting to get a bit confusing, let’s step back a bit. Perhaps just ask what the process is that Google uses. I highlighted the points I particularly like as they challenge traditional corporate thinking:

  1. Let your mission guide you
  2. Think big, start small
  3. Strive for continual innovation, not instant perfection — Google wasn’t the first to “search,” but they did it better
  4. Look for ideas everywhere
  5. Share everything — Google shares the entire Board Letter with all employees quarterly and presents the same slides presented to the Board of Directors in a company-wide meeting
  6. Spark with imagination, support with data — Data should substantiate your idea
  7. Be a platform — Let independent developers broaden the ideas
  8. Never fail to fail

So, based on all of the above, here’s some guidance on how to address corporate innovation.  Good Luck!

5-Step Guide to Innovate:

1)  Innovation team and lead should report to Senior Leadership:  This best ensures accountability, ownership, resources

                  cabashito / Pixabay

2)  Rotate team members:  Team members need to be continually rotated in/out from various functions within the company.  Consider it investing in your high performers.

3)  Set clear objectives and project milestones:  This also should include the need to be open and transparent!

4) Gather data to fine-tune ideas: Once an idea has enough support to consider implementation, gather data to determine viability, identify resources and set parameters to measure success/failure 

5)  Embed project into existing organization with ‘start-up’ mindset


Value of an Idea

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