Leading Innovation Through Times of Change

June 5, 2020

In this episode of The Solution Set, Ned Calder and Rob Bell from Innosight address audience members’ top issues in the Spring of 2020. Calder and Bell are both partners at the innovation consulting firm Innosight, one of our strategic partners.

See three questions Calder and Bell answered below. Watch the video above for more or download a PDF of key takeaways

Q. How can I get operations leaders to think further into the future when constructing a strategy?

Rob Bell: You’ve got to go put a stake in the ground around the evolution of your industry space that is beyond that three-year window, beyond what anybody can see right now. … To get people to buy into this, you need a case for action. You need to take the friction that the company is experiencing in the market and tie it to something that gets the senior leadership focused on it.

Ned Calder: One of the most foundational things for building that case for action is having an aligned view on “where do we see our markets in the world, going five or 10 years out?” One of the things we find in a lot of organizations is a really superficial level of alignment… What that leads to is it’s impossible to make decisions on product on resource allocation on strategy when you have that much disagreement on the direction that you think the world is moving.

We spend the first part of our engagement with leadership teams…articulating that point of view, writing down a specific set of assumptions… And then you’ve also got to have a process to surface misalignment, and resolve those differences.

Q. How do you manage the transition to business unit ownership, so that innovations don’t die on the vine?

Rob Bell: It’s extremely important to ensure that when [the transfer to the business units] is done, there’s…direct and enduring accountability for the performance of that business as part of the responsibility of the operating executives who lead it. … Not a verbal agreement among the person who happens to be running that division when it moves over there, because that leaves as soon as the person leaves.

Ned Calder: Two things make that transition process easier. One is identifying the points of friction that are likely to exist, and preemptively addressing them. … The other piece is, you shouldn’t look at the core business as a fixed entity. If you’re reintegrating something…there typically are parts of that business that need to evolve and adapt to be able to effectively assimilate that, and you need to identify those as well.

Ned Calder: You’ve got to make it clear to leaders that just completely gutting your innovation program solves maybe one near-term problem, but it just creates another problem down the line. … If you completely reduce spend on innovation and get rid of those teams, it’s hard to restart that. There’s momentum that’s associated with the expertise that’s associated with that…

There’s some pretty good economic data that shows that organizations that are able to continue to fund innovation through a crisis typically come out ahead because…they get a leg up. … That doesn’t mean that you can keep it at the same level. So there’s often a question of looking at the portfolio and figuring out which things  we need to move forward, which ones can we park, how can we be more focused as we think about advancing certain opportunities…

Rob Bell: We counsel proactivity, because if you wait and hope, then it’s going to show up in the form of something that was pulled together by finance. And that’s not where you want to be.