Four tips to make innovation business as usual

Published on December 3, 2018

Think only a forged in silicon-valley startup can be a lean mean innovation machine? Think again. There’s more than one path to transformational growth. Established companies can leverage resources to adapt and thrive–even in this time of rapid technology and shifting needs.

Tip #1: Institutionalize innovation.  This may sound like an oxymoron, but innovation won’t work cordoned off in a sexy laboratory or mad genius garage, no matter how inventive the decor.  It requires C-level representation, clear incorporation in strategic priorities and KPI’s, and alignment through metrics and incentives across all your teams. Sure, stages will exist between The Progress Penthouse and full cultural and organizational transformation. But each step will build upon the last, increase acceptance and enthusiasm, and pick up the pace of change.

Tip #2: Deliver fast to downplay the doubters. Startups take an average of two years to become profitable. But innovators inside don’t have that luxury–they have to change oppositional mindsets WHILE they build great products. Break projects into two groups: six month quick wins to win goodwill, and longer-term big breakthroughs–in about a 75% to 25% ratio of priority.  The more small victories you get, the more allies you gain–and the more resources you can shift to bluer skies.

Tip #3: Provide a clear path for professionals.  Transformation begins–and ends–with a talented and inspired team. Create opportunities and pathways for innovation careers.  Offer education opportunities to expand your existing team members’ capabilities, and show clearly defined and incentivized responsibilities and advancement friendly roles to draw in in-demand product people.

Tip #4: Keep your team believing. The process of ideation, testing, and iteration takes time. Sometimes more rounds than anticipated. And internal opposition can drag down even the most optimistic and creative of teams. Sure, playing Journey ballads on repeat can help.  But communicating wins across your organization is great too–it lifts spirits, and helps change minds. Keep up the positive in the trenches as well, emphasizing teamwork and the need to trust in the deliberative process that leads to success.

In the world of invention, there is no ‘no’–there’s just how.