Role of People, Process, and Assassins in Innovation Implementation
In the first tome of the Robert’s Rules of Innovation series, Robert F Brands introduced his rules of innovation:
(I)nspire and Initiate
(N)o Risk… No Innovation
(N)ew Product Development Process
(T)raining & Coaching
(O)bserve & Measure
(N)et Results, Net Reward
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Robert F Brands, author of the popular Robert’s Rules of Innovation series about what it takes to create innovation success and his new book Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation. Here is a transcript of that conversation:
1. After the success of your first book Robert’s Rules of Innovation, why did you decide to write a second book?
The first book covered the essential “Ten Imperatives on How to Create and Sustain Innovation”. These are vital to creating sustainable innovation. In my consulting work at Innovation Workshops, it became clear to me that we needed to go another step.
True, participants discovered what it takes to be innovative, and it is remarkable how folks just “get it” and agree with the validity of Robert’s Rules of Innovation.
But while experiencing or acknowledging this “Aha” moment, the challenges of implementation came up repeatedly. During most if not all of the workshop exchanges essential factors were shared and the learning never stopped. So after close to 100 events and 5 years it was time to share the learning once again, hence the sequel: Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation.
2. Why is it so important to have an innovation mantra?
Clear, concise and consistent communication is absolutely key in any effective organization. This goes for the drive to sustainable innovation as well. The mantra can be remembered and be top of mind, with all associates, all the time.
It is a way for the CEO, who should be the Chief Innovation Officer, to drive the objective home and reinforce it easily. “At least one new Product per year” might not seem like much but when accepted down to the individual level, using the ten Types of Innovation and applied as Innovation vs Product, it becomes incredibly powerful.
3. How should intrapreneurs approach the innovation assassins in their midst?
Let the naysayers be part of the team, to reap the rewards of the group’s success and progress. Let them have the support of the efforts of Champions and Sponsors, from the top down. They will then see that the wave of innovation just cannot be stopped.
Depending on the culture of the organization, work as much on getting things done in the meeting room as outside. Also important is to work on small wins first. But, above all else, get everybody aligned with Objective and Reward alignment. When everyone stands behind the effort, and it is in alignment, innovation goes to new heights.
4. How important is the skill of storytelling for innovators?
Storytelling is essential for innovators and beyond. Stories bring things to life. It’s not just facts and figures anymore. It becomes visual, exciting, personal, and much better understood. I’m dealing with a 10 year old start up currently, and there are up and downs. When I shared the Starbucks story, a business started in 1971 and that remained flat for years until it took off in 1992, it demonstrates that you have to have the right runway and stamina, and that timing is everything.
5. What are the keys to building and maintaining innovation alignment in the organization?
There are two key steps to building and maintaining innovation alignment:
- Defining the Innovation Definition, which is derived from the Vision/Mission and Strategy
- Objectives and Reward alignment, because without proper alignment, any organization will have a conflict of interest. A VP of Manufacturing, for example, will be driving for up time, efficiencies and output. If not jointly aligned toward NP sales, any production interruption to test or validate a new product will be hindered, not helped.
6. What are some of the keys to building an effective innovation team?
Establish Rules of Engagement early, make sure you have diversity, allow time and space and empower them. Getting the chemistry right is extremely challenging. But it’s important to build a team from a variety of departments, to help ensure a palette of viewpoints, for the best fresh thinking. Creativity is elusive. Is there a recipe? I’d say, in a word, it’s diversity. Differing backgrounds, cultures, genders, ages can result in exciting new perspectives and viewpoints that result in moving the innovation needle.
7. What roles do crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and co-creation play in innovation?
These are essential tactics and complimentary to traditional approaches. It increases speed since more minds do better than one. Savvy leaders around the world now employ crowdsourcing methodology to “harness the power of the many” in their efforts to build sustainable innovation into their organizations. The most efficient networks are those that link to the broadest range of information, knowledge and experience. While these techniques may seem tied to current technological capabilities, the reality is that the basic premise has existed for centuries. The Oxford English Dictionary started out in the late 18th century as an open appeal to collect idioms and phrases from volunteers around the world.
It is instructive to remember these words from the great Henry Ford: “I am looking for a lot of people who have the infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.”
8. What is important for organizations to remember in engaging different generations in their innovation efforts?
Different strokes for different folks. Each generation has different methodologies, and ways of doing things. The key is mutual respect. There is no “right way” to conduct oneself, personally and professionally. If we respect that, we can enjoy a more productive and effective environment.
Millennials prefer electronic contact. Boomers prefer face-to-face, or telephone contact. Is one way right? Wrong? I say, simply, “Vive la difference.”
9. Anything else you want to add before we go?
Implementation is hard. It may well be the hardest part of Innovation. Relentless focus is the key to success. Prioritize rigorously and make sure you put Innovation on the monthly management agenda. Innovation Implementation: it should ALWAYS be top of mind, and rigorously reinforced.
Image credits: fightersgeneration.com, slightlyqualified.com
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Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, builds sustainable innovation cultures, and tools for creating successful change. He is the author of the five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and the creator of a revolutionary new Change Planning Toolkit™ coming soon. Follow him on Twitter (@innovate) and Linkedin.