5 Takeaways From Our Event “How to Avoid Innovation Theater — Aligning Corporate Innovation Strategy
Updated: Mar 24
Last Tuesday, we kicked off our series of events on corporate innovation strategy with our first event focused on the topic of “innovation theater.” What we’ll share below, and what the event explored, included several best practices for tying business and brand-related outcomes in the innovation function. Ultimately, we hope these strategies, detailed below, can help innovation leaders articulate their value and create powerful outcomes in the corporate environment. A huge thank you to the panelists Tomer Sharon, Leonard Langsdorf, Mark Leal and Marc Barrachin who deserve the credit for the content in this post!
Tip #1: How Measure the Impact of Innovation
First, ask yourself the question, does your organization care more about building “problem-solving” or “awareness changing” innovation. To determine the answer to this question if it's not immediately apparent-- does success in your position mean you have solved a specific problem for your consumers or have you helped your brand to be viewed as more innovative and responsive to your clients and customers?
For those in problem-solving roles: Product launches are important in that they deliver much-needed data and insight into how a particular solution solves a problem for a specific market segment. At the same time, product launches don’t tell the full story. To lead a successful initiative within a large company, a problem-solving leader must know the deep underpinnings of the problem, quantify the challenge and measure the success of its solution using a descriptive set of quantitative metrics. After launching the product, service or feature, the team should measure these metrics continuously, iterating and building on their solution until the team can say they’ve met the specific target and “solved” the problem. Concisely, in the words of Tomer Sharon, one must “do the right thing, not guess the right thing, know a problem really really well, launch something, start measuring and iterate.” (Panel moment with time)
For individuals tasked with awareness changing: If you are an awareness-changing leader your organization likely lends extra credence to the importance of product launches. Problem-solving is important, however, more important is improving how consumers interact with your brand. In this case, an initiative should select the metric of interaction you’d like impacted by the launch of a product (ie number of mentions on a social channel, product purchases, brand awareness or favorability), measure the metric pre-release and after the launch of the product. If you’ve been able to drive the metric to desirable levels, consider this a success. Do this over multiple launches and consider your innovation function hugely successful!
Tip #2: Generate Revenue
In any innovation function, revenue is key to validating the promise and value of your activities. We all know that some within large corporate organizations can be resistant to innovation, particularly when it subtracts from their P&L. In generating revenue with their various launches, innovation leaders can lessen the risk of bureaucratic bog down. At the same time, it is no easy feat to generate revenue with new product launches, features, etc. A good rule of thumb to lend your team some greater degree of autonomy is to aim to at least cover your costs!
Tip #3: Communicate the Value of What You’ve Built
It is quite important to get both external and internal launches right. Poor internal launches can tank a product before it hits the market, and we know that once launched an innovation can deeply impact how a customer experiences the products and services of a given company. In order to fully capitalize on each initiative, one must communicate what has been solved and why to all stakeholders.
At the onset, there are several clear steps an organization can take to get internal buy-in. Having a solid definition for innovation in your company and how it will be measured is a cornerstone to getting internal communication right from day one. Other processes that ensure a successful launch at the development include giving employees opportunities to engage with the initiatives, increasing the project buy-in on a cross-functional level. In the later stages of development, an innovation leader must be sure to highlight the value created internally for each stakeholder and reduce the fear around potential negative impacts of the project.
When speaking to external stakeholders innovative leaders must be sure on day one that their initiative solves a real customer problem. In the development process and through the launch of their initiative, an innovative leader must communicate the problem they are solving and why. They should be careful not to lose focus on the customer’s problem and fall into the trap of sharing new and exciting features. Customers are likely more excited that you are trying to solve a real issue they have and keeping your communication focused on the value you are creating will be beneficial!
Tip #4: Culture is Key
Ultimately what all panelists agreed on is that people and culture matter the most when it comes to innovation outcomes. If members of your organization are quick to resist change-- innovation efforts are doomed from the onset, regardless of the potential upside. To capitalize on the breadth and depth of opportunities offered by innovation, an organization must be open to change and the possibility of failure.
At NUMA we spend a lot of time thinking about culture leadership and are bringing together four awesome culture leaders for our next event! Join us on the morning of June 19th to see Tom Byam Cook (Deputy Director of Innovation at Dow Jones), Amanda Ramos (Principal at Gensler Architecture), Danielle Ferry (Senior Director - Strategy & Innovation at Moody's Analytics Accelerator) and Max Masure (Cofounder and Gender Inclusion Strategist at Argo Collective) speak on how to build a culture that facilitates innovation leadership. If interested in joining us, you can RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/overcoming-the-talent-crisis-how-to-build-and-retain-innovation-leaders-tickets-61105933492