When an innovation team begins creating a new product or service, they intentionally create a safe haven where participants can ask questions and work creatively. However, that idea must eventually migrate back into core business — a place that may not be as friendly or risk-tolerant.
“Innovation teams can be sometimes perceived as if they were in a bubble, living in a parallel universe apart from the rest of the company,” says Moisés Noreña, former head of innovation at Whirlpool, Allstate, and Moen. “Now [innovators] have to deliver results immediately. … The innovation leader must bridge heaven and earth.”
In his fifth commandment, Noreña explores different ways to approach this challenge. Four helpful tips follow:
• Get great at speaking both languages. That allows leaders to help people on both the business side and in the innovation world understand each other’s perspectives.
• Protect your people. Innovation leaders must give their team space to create and experiment while also addressing shorter term business goals so you can buy runway to work on more transformational projects.
• Invite business leaders. “Spend some time with innovation teams, so they can understand each other and start valuing each other’s perspectives and enjoy the mutual company so they can feel part of the same effort,” Noreña says. “Make the businesses feel valuable when they contribute.”
• Fully research and understand the market and consumer truth. According to Noreña, a focus on the customer unifies both business units and innovation outposts.