I have seen it happen over and over again: innovation project teams wanting to introduce innovation processes without working change and stakeholder management. People either “just forget” or think they move faster when they don’t involve a wider audience. They might in the beginning, but this attitude might backfire quite badly when trying to “push” the new processes into practice.
Innovation is a very fragile process, and if not designed in collaboration, chances are big that such processes will look great on paper, but will never be implemented as such in reality.
This will then lead to reactions from the project team such as:
- Wow, we did not see this coming.
- Why would they be involved? We are the owners of the process.
- Well, these guys (the ones boycotting or complaining) are conservative, they will always block innovation.
- Ah, we cannot change the process any more, this will cost a lot of money.
In the end, they will abandon the process or call in a consultancy to see what went wrong. What went wrong… was… communication and involvement.
Just like any other type of process, the process of innovation has its stakeholders. They range from Managing Directors to operational staff and clients. All of them have their specific stake in the process and an attitude towards changing existing innovation processes or implementing new ones. You will need their buy-in to make your innovation process deliver the results you expect.
For this to work, here are some simple actions to be taken care of before starting and also during the project:
- Map and classify the potential stakeholders in the process
- Define their stake and their attitude towards the innovation process
- Raise potential risks and elaborate mitigating actions
- Define the type and timing of involvement of each one of your stakeholders in the project
- Keep track of the stakeholders attitudes during the project, involve and build your process together.
Stakeholder management is something anyone involved in innovation management should be very concerned with and should incorporate into their routines.
The chances for success are much, much higher when defining an innovation process via a collaborative process. Might take some more time and effort, but it will be worth it!
Caspar van Rijnbach is a specialist in innovation management and partner at TerraForum Consulting in Brazil – www.terraforum.com.br and www.terraforum.ca. Co-author of “Innovation: Breaking Paradigms” and “Management 2.0’’ (in Portuguese).