By Lynn Hinderaker, Partner, NEWbraska Network
"Every employee should understand the organization’s new 'North Star' as well as their own role in reaching that destination."
Pivoting to innovation-led new growth needs to be a clear-cut choice backed with dedicated resources. This is the time to create an innovation launchpad that is built around three core steps:
To succeed with innovation, build sustainable delivery systems with a sense of urgency.
Reallocate toward the future. In most organizations, innovation is not an ideas problem but a resource-allocation problem. A crisis that reshapes market conditions accentuates this disconnect. Funds and people may need to be rapidly redeployed to secure the organization’s future. Such redirection of investment requires quick reassessments of market dynamics to identify new opportunity areas and profit pools.
Leaders should review product pipelines and challenge assumptions that the crisis may have changed. Start with the profit a project would need to generate and work backward to determine the revenue needed to meet that hurdle.
Such assessments can create the foundation for resource-reallocation decisions. Most organizations have a long tail of 'noncore' initiatives whose resources can be put toward higher-value, more urgent growth opportunities.
Emphasize flexibility. When an organization faces a crisis such as the pandemic or a loss of a major executive, it is forced to suddenly shift to agile ways of working. Even if your company is no longer operating in a crisis mode, you should use this 'in-between' time to make these agile models part of their next normal rather than reverting to the old normal.
Organizations should also systematize operating processes that empower the front lines to make connections with customers. Investments in digital analytics that help track new market insights will help remove some of the risk inherent in shifting decisions down in the organization.
Leaders, meanwhile, need to serve as role models for the new behaviors and mindsets they seek from the workforce, including challenging orthodoxies about “how it has always been done” to encourage the embrace of “the way we now do it.”
Redesign procedures to increase development speed. Too much of most organizations’ time is spent on tracking and managing processes instead of the outcomes of those activities. Through years of process monitoring, companies can lose sight of the ultimate prize: delighting the customer. Changing such a culture starts with shifting the organization’s focus to the decisions that matter.
Another harmful tendency is the “not invented here” syndrome, which holds many organizations back from collaborating with the broader industry ecosystem in the belief that their own experts know best. Learning-based development plans should focus on the most uncertain assumptions first. By working with outsiders to incorporate the latest customer insights or cultural trends such as diversity or sustainability can help reduce time to market.
Implement lasting innovation around your North Star
Change cannot rely on inspiring words alone; it requires engaging the entire organization in reinventing the approach to innovation. Every employee should understand the organization’s new North Star as well as their own role in reaching that destination.
Crises create opportunities that can be uncovered when leaders combine people with different backgrounds, personality types and ambitions. Bringing them together in a diverse 'reimagination team' helps put the right talent, focus, and accountability in place to make innovation happen.
Creating such a team starts with the right mix of mindsets; you need both “dreamers” and “doers.” Core team members should, first and foremost, exhibit a “how might we” mindset, combined with a track record of boldly attacking problems. They should be able to challenge assumptions and generate solutions for testing.
Innovation team members should also be curious learners who decisively codify success and failures and quickly develop the next experiment or iteration.
The author is a partner in the NEWbraska innovation initiative. Lynn Hinderaker's focus since he was the catalyst for Taco Bell's Value Menu-driven turnaround in the late eighties has been innovation - new positioning and messaging, new product development, new value-driven strategies, new digital content, new market segments, etc. This focus on entrepreneurial creativity, energy and fresh ways to engage both workers and customers has become the value foundation for the NEWbraska ecosystem. Contact Lynn for a presentation about Nebraska's core challenge and opportunity. 402-208-5519