A Natural Disruption
Why do I need innovation?
Where does innovation live within an organization? Or more importantly, how does an organization prioritize innovation as a value? As an objective? As part of its DNA?
It’s possible that an organization is created as an innovative organism that every single one of its elements is laced with innovative thought, but for most organization, it’s a journey that can be embraced and led to become innovation-driven, and if the innovative path is abandoned it can easily lead to disparity with no apparent future.
In a fast-paced world where an organization can be a strong leader, with years of being at the top of the game and breathing the summit air, can instantaneously find itself losing altitude and surrendering the top spot for an agile and hungry competitor. Therefore, every organization needs to reinvent itself almost every day in order to stay in the game, thus keep its options open, not only in its fortes but constantly looking for new innovative opportunities and always on the hunt for the next best thing.
From demotivation to inspiration
While working for a large pharmaceuticals firm, I had a great idea, that I was led to believe was worth pursuing, consequently sharing it with my manager who motivated to see it through. He referred me to someone he knew in the company and that he believed he would be able to assist in the bringing the idea to life, once I met with her, she said pretty much the same thing my manager said. I met with her contact as well, which led me to another and another… I eventually understood that no good ideas could be realized in an organization unless it has an active idea management process.
My entire career was in enterprise companies making me a corporate animal. I was groomed to deeply understand and recognize the importance of a process behind the actions we take. Therefore, following my heavily bureaucratic and unorderly experience, I ventured into researching the concepts of how to introduce an idea management process (aka ‘Ideation’) into the organization. The first step I took was to dig deep into existing innovation pockets, processes and projects within the organization. Then I interviewed the innovation leaders and understood their process. I then spent hundreds of hours reading books and research materials, meeting innovation managers and ideation campaign leaders in order to find the optimal process for my organization.
Finding the right process
While understanding that my organization’s DNA is completely different from any other company I met or read about, I realized that I had to stick to best practices and proven processes as opposed to building a new process tailored to my organization. In the case of ideation or any other innovation process I had learned that the success rates are low, therefore it is imperative to learn from the experience of others and specifically from those that have a similar DNA to my organization.
Once I had a right blend of experiences and research, I customized a strawman process that relies on the market’s best practices and advice I collected from innovation program managers I met on my journey. Keeping it to a less detailed presentation, I took the strawman process for a roadshow within the organization.
It was imperative that I get buy-in from all levels. My roadshow commenced with my friends in the organization, as they knew me more than most – I knew they would give it to me straight. I then moved on to my group, subordinates, peers, and managers as I needed support from home before I move to the next layer in the organization. From that point on I met mostly with senior management leading all the way to the CEOs office.
Build a coalition
After every session, I would collect the feedback, apply necessary changes and move on, where most sessions were handled as one-on-ones – for maximum focus. The most important lesson I learned on the way, which had played a significant factor in the overall success of the program was to create a coalition of supporters and make sure there was substantial support from senior management. I knew that I truly needed management to announce my program once it was launched and I needed management to believe in my dream and become somewhat investors in my startup, thus becoming my partners.
During my journey, I was able to recruit one senior manager that had become my sponsor and had allowed me to pilot the process within his division. Just by chance my sponsor was my own division manager and had become a true believer and my greatest supporter. Once he had declared the ideation program within the division management, I knew that the proof was on me from this point on.
Selling the disruption
I had learned much from the journey, most importantly, that an innovation process is not natural for most mature enterprise companies. Every company believes it is innovative, and in more detailed resolution, each member of senior management, when asked about integrating an innovation process will say that the company is already invested in innovation, giving multiple examples. The sell is usually in the form of describing the major advantages of a global innovation process, as opposed to pockets of innovation. When describing the ideation program internally, the basic assumptions were that the process is simple, global, standard, removed all barriers and offered to all as best next thing can emerge from anyone.
I would summarize, that the proof is always in the pudding, meaning that an innovation program, especially ideation, relies on good ideas submitted during the collection phase, crowd support for those ideas, ability to bring proper research, good designs, successfully of presenting the ideas to the innovation management, and of course the ability to deliver a product. Saying all that, innovation within an organization, that focuses on changing the DNA to become more innovative is an incremental process that takes time and multiple successful cycles to create a healthy engagement.
The real benefit
I truly believe a disruption that introduces an innovation process should be done naturally, meaning that it should be built within the natural ecosystem of the organization as opposed to any external imposition. Organizations that embrace the change and make innovation a value will be successful in building their innovative future.
This is a call to all innovation entrepreneurs, don’t hesitate, take the lead and propose your proposal, suggest the process and convince the organization. Explain that an innovation process is crucial to the organization and has a major role in ensuring a bright future. Be bold, but be practical, listen to everyone, but make your decisions based on best practices and suggestions from experienced innovators. Bring your best foot forward; this is an exciting journey!