This may be news to some, but innovation is not a “one and done” endeavor. The purpose of building a solid innovation program for your company is to eventually scale innovation efforts – as you scale everything else. But how do you do that efficiently?
The best way to learn anything is from people who’ve been there. So we invited two of our favorite innovation leaders to share their pro tips in our December hangout, SAP and Tata Consultancy Services: Innovation Programs That Scale:
- Kuhan Milroy, Senior Director of Social Business Innovation for SAP Community Network
- Courtney Wood, Director of Innovation Management Services at Tata Consultancy Services
Kuhan and Courtney had great insight to offer companies at every stage of innovation. Here’s a sampling.
Define and refine your process
It’s impossible to scale something that hasn’t been defined, but Courtney shares common hurdles she sees organizations struggling to overcome:
- Lack of common purpose
- No mechanisms in place to reinforce goals
- Lack of broad commitment across enterprise leadership
- Inappropriate levels of funding to take things forward
- Lack of follow-through for ideas generated
Her advice for clearing these hurdles? “Start slow, and know it’s a long road.”
Kuhan advises getting the first one or two challenges behind you – to build credibility, and offer proof to the skeptical. From there you can work on bringing stakeholders into the process and handing off responsibilities to more and more people.
“Start putting yourself out of a job,” he jokes. How? Refine your process. Something as simple as canned templates for pitching and designing can save five hours of conversation. And leave you more time to hunt for opportunities and bring even more people on board.
Watch for signs
There’s no single answer for when you should scale – it depends on your goals, and where you are with the metrics that matter for you. You want to see progress against those measures – and what contributed to hitting them. When you see that you’ve got something repeatable, that’s when you know you can scale, according to Courtney.
“Look for the gaps in your innovation process,” advises Kuhan. Once you have your program up and running, that’s when you gain actionable data on that front. At that point you can step back and see where the weaknesses are – and that will help you find the next place you should scale.
Get leaders on board
Scaling your program comes down to “buy-in,” according to Kuhan. Especially in the early days, when you’re less proven. But you need that executive support to push past legacy processes and beliefs that don’t work anymore – like silo thinking and resource hoarding.
Fear of failure is another barrier that requires top leaders as sponsors or advocates to break through – as lower level employees may not feel empowered to take such risks. It’s also important to be aware of cultural roadblocks.
Says Kuhan, “Some cultures are taught from a young age NOT to fail,” so it’s important to encourage mindset shifts within a diverse employee base.
But innovation culture matters too, as Courtney explains. “An aligned culture is the number one driver of success and the absence of it is the number one driver of failure.” So it’s really important to get that executive alignment so the culture of the entire enterprise can shift to embrace innovation.
Owning your place in the big picture
The world is changing, and that understanding needs to be top of mind as well. “It’s about rehearsing for the future,” Courtney states. “Imagining future possibilities – and then when those scenarios are starting to happen you have something ready to kick into gear.”
Because you’re not solving innovation problems, you’re solving business problems. And one success will more than make up for the failures that came before. And though you may not be directly thinking of scaling in the early days, you want to know that each building block and step is getting you closer to that end goal.
Courtney and Kuhan shared a LOT more – including what to do if you scale too quickly, and how to approach the idea of scale right from the beginning. You’ll want to listen to the entire hangout, SAP and Tata Consultancy Services: Innovation Programs That Scale, to be sure you don’t miss a second of their expertise.
And when you’re ready to make Brightidea part of your innovation program’s arsenal, we’re ready to talk to you.