Selling Innovation Internally, Regardless of Your Audience

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att-axa-usbankIf you missed our extremely informative Google Hangout this week on Selling Innovation Management Inside Your Enterprise we have highlights to help you sort out your internal sales pitch.

First, a quick hat tip to our panelists who all work at risk adverse companies but have succeeded in driving a culture of innovation. Their advice is summarized in the mashup that follows:

Gary Hasty, Director of Innovation & Strategy, AT&T
Valerie Lancelle, VP of Enterprise Innovation, US Bank
Laurent Benichou, Director of Innovation & Foresight, AXA

When it comes to selling innovation internally, the struggle is two-fold:

  1. Demonstrating value to the C-suite
  2. Getting employees on board as participants

So let’s start with the big guys (and gals) first – how do you get on the radar of the decision-makers who are ultimately in charge of the ongoing budget you will/won’t get?

Creating a sense of urgency is key – and what better way to do that than speak to the great idea you all had last year that was never implemented (but may have been by your competitor). Or by sharing stories about other industries where folks have been disrupted because they failed to innovate (there are many). And encouraging friendly competition between departments never hurts. Much. Another great way to do this that Laurent of AXA shared is to start off with a Challenge and share the results. This helps people feel the potential of more successes.

Once you’ve obtained a budget to seed a trial run, select a challenge that speaks very specifically to the pain points your business is facing. And solicit ideas to solve it.

As you progress, Valerie from US Bank shared to make sure communication is top-of-mind. You really can’t over communicate the process, positive attributes of what you’re learning along the way and you certainly can’t overdo sharing successful outcomes. You’ll want to have monthly sessions with stakeholders and sponsors; provide regular updates via email, blog post and courier pigeon – and blast case studies internally while hosting executive briefings to celebrate success.

And when it comes to encouraging participation from your fellow employees, you need to make it fun. Host events within your organization, from themed challenges to hackathons – and Gary of AT&T reminds us that we need to help everyone develop an appetite for failure. You want to create an environment where employees are comfortable attempting the impossible because failure is expected – and celebrated – much like success. Because failure eventually leads TO success. (Keeping track of this helps too.)

The worst thing you can do is have a false start. Don’t get everyone keyed up to innovate and solicit ideas and then do nothing with those ideas. There HAS to be follow-through of some sort. People need to feel like they’re part of the process and that their contributions are valued before they’ll become invested in it.

And Laurent points out to be sure your innovation program offers the exceptional flexibility, usability and technical support needed to help you make the most of it (AXA uses Brightidea). You want your program to make submitting and commenting on ideas a snap, and it also needs to be easy for judges to vote on ideas and for you or your team to administer.

It also needs to be flexible enough to support multiple business lines and leave participants focusing on ideas and not worrying about how to navigate the tool. At the end of the day, your efforts will only move forward if your tool facilitates it. Who has the time otherwise?

Lots of great info to keep in mind, isn’t it? That’s not even half of what we discussed! Watch the full webinar here.