One of the biggest challenges I hear from corporate innovators is getting internal buy-in from executive leadership for the projects they envision. This is, by far, the most mentioned barrier faced by innovation directors, managers, and analysts.
As an innovation consultant, my job is to craft outside-the-box thinking into real life business opportunities. Although inspiring, creative, and full of potential, many movers and shakers get shut down and are isolated inside their organization for various reasons: culture, strategy, priorities, budget, risk appetite, and, even, ego.
I recently asked a friend of mine, who is having a lot of success leading projects, “Hey John, are you targeting the Director of Innovation position?” He replied, “Are you asking if I’m open to being responsible for 10% success and then receive blame for the other 90% failure? No, thank you!” You see the conundrum.
While navigating the complicated maze of internal buy-in, there are some key insights into what you need to stop doing — right now.
Innovation Leadership — What Not To Do
1. Think That You Know Better
You are in a big corporation with seasoned experience and recognition for your implementation of new ideas and projects. The confidence— and dare I say, ego — are developed. It can start to get harder to listen and learn from others because of the success you have experienced thus far. Suddenly, the infinite possibilities are reduced to your own limited vision. The result? You get isolated in your initiative and your peers start avoiding, ignoring, or, even, fighting against your project.
Tip: Don’t be an alien inside your organization. Although you are a creative genius, and, we can see this in you, unfortunately —or fortunately— success cannot be achieved alone. Read how diversity and inclusion lead to higher ROI.
2. Try To Hit The Stars When You Should Be Targeting The Moon
If your company just started building an innovation culture and your team is trying to establish credibility, always start small. Starting small allows for easy wins that allow you to bulk up projects as the team progresses. Analyze the critical challenges your organization is facing and then understand where there is lower risk with potential for small wins. Ensure you are targeting the right KPIs and then go for it! After many small wins, you likely will have the respect and trust necessary to integrate larger projects.
Tip: According to CB Insights State of Innovation Report from 2018, 57% of survey respondents said their companies do not follow a formal innovation process, and, most do not even have processes for ideation and development phases. Reference the Ultimate Corporate Innovation Playbook for a framework used by leading corporations to explore, discover, design, and test innovative solutions.
3. Embrace The “Explorer” For Too Long
Exploring and learning is advantageous. Innovators love to research, test, and try without any commitment. This learning supports better decision making and brings a broader vision of opportunities. However, you must tread lightly. This can be a trap because you will expend all your budget learning without generating tangible results in the short term; these results are what provide future funding for greater projects. That said, it is crucial to have a mix of exploratory and incremental innovation in order to sustain your team’s efforts and credibility.
Tip: Learn from failure. Read Why Corporate Accelerators Fail.
4. Forget To Gain Executive Support
Your company created your team to bring new opportunities and boost new energy to the organization. However, in order to be successful, you must have backing from executive leadership. According to new research by Innovation Leader, 73% of innovation, strategy, and R&D executives say that leadership support is the biggest enabler of innovation, and, over 55% report that politics, turf wars, and a lack of alignment are the biggest barriers to innovation. The executive team must develop a sustainable innovation strategy that spans the company and seeps into the culture DNA.
Tip: Take the Corporate Innovation Assessment to see how supported your organization is in moving innovation forward.
5. Not Share The Wins
Share successes — a small, but powerful must. As teams make progress, it builds momentum and comradery to form a strong culture. It is this culture, the humans behind the work, that builds great companies.
Tip: Watch Harvard Business Review’s The Power of Small Wins.
6. Battle Against The Corporate Culture
Battling corporate culture is a lost fight, guaranteed. Usually, corporations are not prepared for extreme change because it involves risk. And, yet, your job is to push the company to think and operate differently. It is not your role to change the corporate culture. It is, however, your role to inspire and demonstrate impactful change through your projects. It is imperative to understand that innovation is a path and a long one at that. But, the work you do can start to percolate and bring about transformation from the inside out.
Tip: Learn from these six corporations with the best innovation culture.
From Innovation Don'ts to Do’s
Now that you know what not to do, you can do the opposite: utilize diverse perspectives for projects, form an innovation strategy that is conducive to starting small but thinking big, turn learnings into action, ensure executive support, share successes across the company, and meet the corporate culture with the intention to inspire change.
Are you ready to embark on implementing these action items above?
RocketSpace offers a suite of corporate innovation programs designed to help global brands connect with industry-leading startups and scale-ups. RocketSpace offers support in landscape discovery, disruptive technology identification, rapid prototyping, and more. RocketSpace provides value through the unique combination of external innovation expertise, emerging technology access, and an exclusive focus on actionable solutions. Start your corporate innovation journey today!