Entrepreneurial

    10 Essential Elements of an Innovation Mandate

    InnovationMandateGetting a Mandate to Innovate is Key

    Larger companies typically have an innovation process in place. They don’t always work, but the majority of the Fortune 1000 has some kind of innovation process or system. There is an implied consent then, to innovate, at those organizations. There are people, budgets, expectations.

    At smaller companies, the Mis-Fortune 5000 as I sometimes jest, there is often not a process in place. In many of these still sizable firms innovation tends to be a reaction to an emergency, or a sporadic effort that takes a back seat to operations. They often default to incremental improvement of the product or service based on customer demands.

    A newly appointed Innovation VP or Director at a Mis-Fortune company like this is essentially starting from scratch. People in that position scramble to find a process they can adopt. That’s a good thing. Nearly any process is better than no process. Deliberate or structured Innovation can be defined as proactive management of risk, and the sooner you get after it, with some kind of process the better off you’re going to be. At the core of nearly any process is… a project.

    However…

    Stumbling into innovation projects without a mandate is a disaster waiting to happen.

    I’ve seen the following scenario happen: New Innovation Director gets a project started. Forms an ad hoc team. Finds an opportunity area, then the team jams ideas and even does some feasibility and research to polish up a Pitch. Maybe even a prototype. Then they do a Pitch to management and the whole thing blows up. Management says No. Maybe a reprimand. Maybe even a firing. The Innovation Director rightly asks, what did you hire me for? It won’t be said out loud, but the unstated reason for the title is — it’s window dressing. Not every company has the motivation to innovate. And that is not often acknowledged. Even at big companies with in-place innovation processes, a Mandate for innovation makes sense, because an implied consent leaves wiggle room for, “we didn’t really approve this.”

    Why would Executive Management say No?

    Lots of reasons, here’s a list:

    • The big guy (or gal) is a control freak and is basically upset that a project is going on without approval. Best way to demonstrate displeasure? Say No.
    • Management wanted to be involved. Leaders like to be involved when it’s something strategic.
    • Management had an idea for another kind of innovation project entirely, something more strategic, or, something more tactical.
    • The surprise factor had Exec. Management vomiting on the ideas. Big ideas can be quite jarring to the stomach. I’m serious, big ideas are upsetting and the initial reaction can be projectile vomit.
    • Management knows something you don’t, in terms of the market, or the context of a project. With involvement they could have steered the project in the right direction.
    • Management has an entirely different agenda and innovation is upsetting the apple cart.

    There are many more reasons, but you get the idea.

    You Need a Mandate To Innovate

    I’m not the first person to say this, but to proceed with an innovation effort you need a Mandate. An Executive Mandate. As my father used to say “all bets are made on the first tee.” A mandate is what you need to avoid misunderstandings later. It’s making a bet from the outset that everyone can live with.

    What does that look like? Here are 10 Elements of an Innovation Mandate

    1. Permission to begin, and the basic resources to do so
    2. Permission to form a team and time for those people to work on Innovation
    3. A project or opportunity area (and a list of same)
    4. An understanding that there will be on-going front-end-of-innovation projects
    5. A process, even a simple one, for running projects
    6. An expectation of project timing(s), in other words, is it a month, a quarter, a year?
    7. An understanding that the effort will be supported from the top down
    8. Touch points during the process to confirm direction, including a final Pitch meeting
    9. An agreement to resource those ideas that pass through the Pitch meeting with a Yes (fund the back end of innovation)
    10. The ability to monitor and measure the various steps in the process and project cycles, other words Metrics

    There are details under each of these that are context specific, but the above can form the basis of the Mandate.

    Having the Mandate discussion might lead to compromises, additions, or changes to how things are done. That’s exactly what you want — a negotiated agreement to innovate. Get everyone on the same page and then get started on projects! Use the above as a starting point, a discussion guide for getting a Mandate. Use it. Please!

     

     

     

    Comments

    Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit

    I am sometimes asked what a Facilitator should have in their kit bag. Here’s my answer — the Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit list. The items are below in bold. Many have links to where you can source the materials. I’m assuming the facilitator is a hands-on project leader who facilitates meetings, such as idea generation or strategy sessions. I did not take into consideration travel via plane or car. Obviously, some things are more portable than others. Consider this a master list which you can subset for your needs. Some of these items are not available off the shelf retail, so, put this kit together ahead of time so you can focus on design and executing your session plan as




    Read More..
    Comments

    21 Rules for Innovation Team Building

    I revised this “rule of thumb” list for a client and she suggested I re-share it in a blog post. This list is the accumulated wisdom of many years and it includes thinking from colleagues in the innovation space. Its target is the innovation team leader, but there are lessons for all types of team members here. The big change from the previous version is the emphasis on projects. It’s the key to Innovation in my view, from culture change to positive team dynamics to effectiveness of an overall innovation program. It’s the one thing of innovation — doing Projects. So here goes: 21 Rules for Innovation Team Building 1. A strong bold project initiative, with a clear vision for




    Read More..
    Comments

    Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Innovation

    The Time is Now to Plan for 2016 Innovation This time of year it’s natural to get an innovation plan in place — if you’re not there already — the time is now. Talking to customers about their innovation efforts I’m hearing regrets in December. Wishes for having done more, and done more sooner. Shel Silverstein wrote a poem that sums it up nicely: Woulda-Coulda- Shoulda All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas Layin’ in the sun, Talkin’ bout the things They woulda-coulda-shoulda done… But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas All ran away and hid From one little did. by Shel Silverstein A Simple Innovation Plan — in 7 Steps I get it, innovation, if it’s not part of your culture, is hard to kick start and get




    Read More..
    Comments

    Graphene Application Challenge Prize?

    The Graphene Challenge Graphene is a new material that is just in its infancy in terms of commerical usage. It’s from graphite, the stuff in pencils. It’s magical stuff — 150 times stronger than steel, flexible like rubber, and potentially usable in electronics, water filtration, energy, building construction, medical, and more. It’s the thinnest material known to man at this moment. It’s 250 times more conductive or “mobile” than silicon. It hit the news again recently as scientists have discovered a much cheaper way to produce the material. This is a market that is about to explode. It’s frustratingly hard to work with. But that’s the fun part.  Unfortunately for the USA, it would see the prime early movers in




    Read More..
    Comments

    Paying Lip Service to Developing Entrepreneurs

    There is a very frightening trend happening in the USA. We are not growing entrepreneurs. See my “Seven Ways to Grow Entrepreneurs” below! What is it we believe in our capitalist country? Isn’t it something like this: Anybody who works very hard, has a bit of talent and a good idea, can start something, grow it, and do well.  Isn’t that the essence of the entrepreneurial American dream? Yes, there is more to it than that. Yes, you can fail. Yes, it’s a market driven meritocracy — or it should be. I’ve always taken this entrepreneurial spirit for granted – it’s who we are! I’ve always assumed that as the years go by, more and more Americans (and this extends




    Read More..
    Comments

    GOP Debate: No Mention of Manufacturing

    A short post to make an observation. Say what you will about the GOP debate last night — and there is much to say — there was no attention paid to manufacturing. Search the transcript, you’ll not find the word mentioned a single time. Wow, it’s a very big point to miss. In related topics innovation was mentioned once, and infrastructure, a huge problem, was not mentioned at all. Why is it important and a big missing that manufacturing wasn’t mentioned? Manufacturing, and the middle class jobs that accompany renewed manufacturing, are absolutely essential to sustained, healthy economic growth. Our growth right now is anaemic in large part because of this missing element. We are not going to be a




    Read More..
    Comments

    “Open For Business” is a Promise Made

    Open for Business  It’s a real joy when a business opens its doors for the first time. “Open for Business” sounds and feels like hope and possibility to me. Starting a new business is where creativity blossoms and where innovation is made real. You’ve created something and you want to deliver that value for a fair payment in return. That’s what an entrepreneur does. Why would the government put anything in the way of a win-win business transaction? The law recently passed in Indiana (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) is being fiercely debated. I really don’t want to comment, much, on the moral aspect of the law, I want to comment instead on what it means to open your doors for business




    Read More..
    Comments

    Baby Steps To Breakthrough In Regional Economic Development

    Creativity, Innovation, and Economic Development — Embracing the Challenge Better Questions Means Better Answers for Regional Economic Development It’s about Attitudes, Projects, and Baby Steps Economic Development is important and challenging work. Having just interviewed players in this field and surveyed some regional initiatives — it’s clear that innovative work is being done in regional economic development — by some. I suspect that many in the field find the economic development challenge overwhelming. A bit like the Bob character in What about Bob, it’s tough to be creative when you are afraid to take a simple step. Thank you Bill Murray for a memorable character. Let’s face it, some regions always seem to lose out on the new plant. Some




    Read More..
    Comments

    Want Innovation? Ask.

    Not everything about innovation is complicated. I recently gave a creative problem solving workshop to a group of scientists who all worked for the same outfit. It was a lively session. In addition to learning structured creative problem solving (Osborn-Parnes-Basadur framework) we did some short bits of ideation around new business concepts. This was more as a sampler than it was a real session. It wasn’t the goal of the session to reinvent their business, nonetheless, in a short time there were some relevant business growth ideas with potential on the table. An executive with the company remarked after the session that “nobody ever comes to me” with new business ideas. Talking more with this man a reason why emerged:




    Read More..
    Comments