Innovation Management Blog

C-level support and innovation isn't a one way street

One Way Min

We're going to define what working with innovation really is in several future posts in the not too distant future, but this post is about one aspect of your innovation program that is needed for it to be a success.

There are others and quite a few that you need to be aware of, all with varying degrees of importance and need, but this is a really important one; you need the board or the CEO to support your innovation activities ... unless you have someone at C-level already responsible for innovation and then you'll already know this, because you've sold in your program plan and they've bought into it and the business is committed.

First things first

You can start without the support and a lot of companies do but the failure rate is higher. And for you innovation efforts to be a success you will eventually need the person on board to provide the resources you need. You can even start with it as a PR exercise as a means to engage with employees - we actually think this is a really good way to begin if it's part of a plan (not as a one off event).

But with all efforts, there has to be an eye on what comes from the workforce and you've got to align that and manage it. Which is why support is crucial.

That is why we call innovation a two way street. If you start by asking questions, you have to know what a successful answer will look like (not the actual opportunity or solution) and be willing to implement or develop, once it's met the criteria. That's why our advice is to start with known actionable needs or something not connected to your core business (a crowdsourcing event to showcase this way of working), rather than trying to re-invent the light switch. Getting the first event or challenge right with ideas you're going to use will not only show your CEO and board that this works, but it will also show all those you engaged that you're serious about what they have to say.

How to do this?

I might have made it sound easy so far, but that's because up to now, it is. But one really important thing you have to do when you launch your first crowdsourcing campaign is lovingly and willingly accept all the ideas, quickly identify what could work (more on this later) and also not dismiss something just because it doesn't fit into what success will look like at this present time (we call this the innovation unknown and again, more on that in the future).

So our second point with this post is a simple one; if you're running an innovation event, know what your pipeline is going to look like and what it will take for an idea to make it to the end.

The third point and it's a general one around working with innovation, is that the worst thing you can do is put the results of your crowdsourcing campaign or ideation workshop in a drawer. They have to be in a place where after the event or at some stage in the future, collaboration can continue, either with the group or even the entire organisation if visibility of ideas permits this.

Don't lose track of all your work

You might think this not so important when looking at a single innovation activity, but when your innovation program is three years old with information and ideas on 60 challenges, 80 workshops and 40 crowdsourcing events, you'll start to find a huge amount of valuable information and data not only in the ideas and solutions, but in the people that submitted and collaborated on them. And it's this information where you'll start to identify new innovation opportunities and new value.

Finally on this post, don't be worried or frightened to saying not right now to whoever is submitting an idea, very early on. If you've communicated the innovation challenge brief the right way and you're saying a no early on, the user that submitted the idea will be okay in hearing that than nothing and more likely to develop his or her idea further or come up with something new. Embrace the crowd or audience.

In closing

  • Get the right support from your organisation for the program
  • Know what success will look and the process (this will change from event type to event type)
  • Communicate clearly and continuously (at a user and audience level)

This isn't everything, but if you're going to start, it's a good place for your program and first event.

Header photo credit: Hans M

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