• Innovation Starts With A Senior Executive Risking Her Position


    Most business functions in an organization are there to execute on a plan.

    Since innovation is a high risk game, in a big organization it usually means risking one’s position. So the first step to implement an innovation strategy is to secure strong commitment from a senior executive to the nature and process of innovation strategy. It not only means risking money, it means risking a disruption to the company’s culture, morale, and ego of team members, junior and senior alike.

    I was asked many times about best practices to complete this first step. I don’t think there’s a better answer than trust. That is why is established agencies are now building innovation practices – they are trusted to make high risk moves. For a new entrant to the space, there needs to be an initial investment of marketing air cover, building a reputation. That means playing for the long run while securing small early wins.

    The Corporate Innovation Framework


    So here is a rough plan to go about executing innovation framework in a large org. This is based on my practical experience and seeing what other have done in similar situations: 

    1. Securing executive sponsor – educate the sponsor on the process, on the commitment, on the risks and guaranteed failures, on budget and org.
    2. Problem discovery, validation and focus – engage the executive’s team to list and prioritize problems. Conduct problem sizing and urgency metric. Validate with the exec sponsor. The end results should be:
      1. List of top 10 problems in the exec org ranked by value size, urgency and strategic importance.
      2. For the top 3 problems, the exec and team must commit to pending innovation of at least $300K per TBD solution. Final budget approval is only after solution proposal is reviewed and approve by exec and team.    
    3. Flaring for solutions.
      1. Build foundation for internal innovation center of excellence using ideation workshops, idea collaboration tools and customer development interviews.
      2. Develop open innovation framework to solicit ideas from industry.
      3. Set criteria and process for idea selection
    4.  Selecting:
      1. Develop business cases, timeline, fit with org culture and strategy   
      2. Define feasible product & delivery team for each solution
      3. Define business owner if pilot is successful  
      4. Commit Funding   
    5.   Delivering   
      1. Prototype / beta development
      2. Testing and learning
      3. Data and analytics
    6. Evaluating

    At the end of evaluation, do one of these:

    - Kill project

    -Increase funding for the specific project for another phase of testing and learning

    -Hand off to business unit for scaling


    This cycles repeats itself while improving processes, tools, methods, and metrics, and can grow in scope across departments.

    Innovation Business Rhythm


    Quarterly 2-hour meeting with executive sponsor and leadership team:

    • Problem hypothesis review and approval (30 min)  
    • Selecting new ideas (60 min)
    • Review status of ideas in pipeline (30 min)  

    Conduct bi-annual innovation impact meeting with the exec sponsor and her superior.

    Ad-hoc rapid response to fires, red tape and politics via email, phone conferences.