To Drive Innovation Success, You Need These Safety Belts

November 12, 2020

When learning to drive a race car, I quickly discovered there is no partial action — you’re either full on the gas or full on the brake, testing the limits of the tires and of yourself. The lessons learned can easily apply to business, where there may be times when it’s necessary to move instantly and smoothly from full gas to full brake. And being able to do it well is the secret to success.

Buckle up! In race cars, safety belts serve to keep you secure and in control during violent swings in pace and motion. In business, during periods of disruption and uncertainty that may require the need to aggressively shift your portfolio, consider these guiding principles as your team’s safety belts:

1. Get and stay aligned. According to KPMG’s Enterprise Reboot report, 57 percent of executives said that COVID-19 had significantly changed their organization’s strategic priorities for emerging technologies. While not all pursuits will be tech related, this finding demonstrates how important it is to engage with senior leaders to understand what signals they are reacting to and how they are interpreting them. Then, add your perspectives, challenge theirs, and agree on the highest and best uses for the unique talent and resources on your innovation team. Revisit this often.

2. Remain objective. This is not the time for protracted lobbying to save cool pet projects. According to the responses in our mini-report, “A New Vision for Corporate Innovation,” innovation budgets have decreased in 2020. When faced with such conditions, you must rapidly and honestly rank each initiative based on its relevance, potential contribution, time needed to complete, and resources required. Brake hard on those at the bottom of the ranking to create the capacity to go full gas on the top ones and add new ones.

3. Look ahead. Don’t change course once and let inertia settle back in. When racing, how you exit one turn determines how fast you enter the next one. In business, portfolio decisions made under one set of assumptions need to be retested as the scope and duration of the market changes become clearer.

Kevin Bolen is the Global Head of Market Intelligence and US Leader for Strategic Investments at KPMG. This piece was originally written for our CxOs & Innovation report, “A New Vision for Corporate Innovation.”