Get Leaders to Adopt Your Innovation
Updated: Sep 21
If you're a corporate innovator, you've definitely got a past example of great innovation that never get's adopted by your company. #failuretype2 Why is that? Don't your leaders see how great the innovation is? Don't they know what customers are saying about it? Why can't they change adopt this idea?
It can be frustrating. Very frustrating, to say the least. I've known colleagues to leave companies because of this. "Disagreements," they call it. How can we improve this?
First, it's important to understand that there's usually separate teams for innovation and execution within an organization. An innovation team or "startup team" #startupteam is interviewing lots of customers, going through a series of sprints, running experiments and validating business ideas. The execution team or "execution partner" #executionpartner is the team that executes the product or service development process to ensure high quality and timely roll-out.
Very rarely are these two teams the same in corporate structure. Think of the serial entrepreneur and a growth manager. The entrepreneur starts a new business and helps it grow to $1 million in revenue, then $20 million, and then exits and looks for the next great idea. The growth manager is brought to focus on growth and scaling the business. This is very similar to scenario of the innovation team and the execution partner within an established firm. The biggest difference, however, is we can make the transition even easier in the corporate setting by involving the execution partner earlier.
When you've got a great innovation, you can't "throw it over the wall" and expect the execution partner to build it right. No matter how hard you push or try, an execution partner will never have the same passion and deep understanding of the customer problem, solution and business model without a different approach.
So instead of forcing innovation into your company, make the execution partner, and its leaders, feel the pain of the customer. As soon as you know who the execution partner is, (it may not be obvious in the beginning) get them as involved as possible in the direct learning from the customer. Make them feel the pain as if they are the customer.
There's a great TED talk by Simon Sinek titled, "How great leaders inspire action."
In his talk, Simon discusses how the limbic brain is in charge of evoking emotion and emotion is the predecessor to decision making. The same is true with leaders and execution partners. "The Why" is the customer pain you're trying to solve. The more you can make leaders and partners feel the pain of the customer, the more they'll be motivated to solve it. When I coach my teams and when I present myself, I bring the customer pain as early in the deck as possible to set the stage for the rest of the story.
But you won't convince leaders and execution partners with just the large-audience pitch presentations. You also need to involve them in the learning as early as possible in small discussions. Give them a chance to voice concerns and other obstacles that the innovation team need not consider.
In the beginning, it may seem like a waste of time for the execution partner to get heavily involved. But keep at it and keep them involved as much as possible. It'll slow down the innovation but you're investing time in the future success of the ideal.
Then, If your problem, solution, and business model are right, the execution partners and leaders will naturally get more interested in taking the solution to market because they've felt the pain, they witnessed the solution validation, and they believe it to be a sustainable business. No pushing necessary.