How can You Move the Needle?

By Scott Kirsner |  January 23, 2015

We worked with a group of 15 innovation executives recently to develop this list of “Innovation Approaches.” It attempts to capture what innovation leaders are doing when they are setting strategy; trying to change company culture; building capabilities for cultivating and testing new ideas; or investing in promising startups. Obviously, not everyone pursues or should pursue all of these approaches, but this was an attempt to create a comprehensive list of what we see companies doing — and what innovation executives tell us they’re doing. (You can download this list as a printable PDF.)

We tried to list these things in terms of “degree of difficulty” — some of the easier steps/approaches are listed first in each category, with the more challenging things listed further down. Which have you explored…embarked upon…decided not to do?

And what’d we miss? Feel free to add a comment below…

Developing Strategy

  • Talk to senior leaders to establish their vision for innovation, definition of innovation
  • Where does innovation live within the organization?
  • Evaluate existing innovation efforts to identify gaps, and build on existing successful efforts
  • Create a governance council/committee to serve as innovation ambassadors, coaches, shepherds, “green-lighters”
  • What will we not do? Is there part of the business/industry we don’t want to innovate in?
  • What framework are we going to adopt for innovation? How will we manage the portfolio/pipeline?
  • Is there an explicit timeframe for having an impact? When do you want to see results? What does success look like in Year 1, Year 2, Year 3?
  • What are the disruptive waves/trends we see happening in our industry?
  • Who do we need to hire for the innovation team? How will we attract people from outside the company/industry?
  • Customer focus: How do we gather customer insights and embrace the customer throughout the process?
  • Metrics and long-term funding for innovation team
  • How will business units help set innovation agenda, and what “runway” will exist for getting successful experiments launched into the market with their help?

Changing Culture

  • Awards and recognition
  • Speakers seriesInnovation days and conferences
  • Innovation portal
  • Establishing an organizational “point of contact” for innovation (for external or internal parties)
  • Videos on innovation, innovation “annual reports”
  • Marketing, evangelizing, speaking on innovation — for optics externally, and for sharing the wins internally
  • Collaborative workspacesInnovation training; creating a common language around innovation
  • Creating reward, incentive structures, and personal metrics linked to innovation (for some or all employees).

Cultivating, incubating, and testing ideas

  • Idea management software
  • Hackathons, “startup weekends,” idea challenges, “Shark Tank”-style pitch contests
  • Internal funding mechanisms (money / time / resources) to develop ideas
  • Collaborations with universities or startups
  • Tech scouting (looking for promising technologies being developed outside, creating ways to bring them in)
  • Idea sourcing and development with suppliers, partners, customers20 percent time / unstructured time
  • Pilot-testing programs / lean startup methodology

Investing in promising companies

  • Corporate venture capital
  • Acquisitions
  • Starting or sponsoring accelerator program