For authentic innovation to occur at an organization, you have to craft the culture of a place to accept and embrace new ways of working together and being in the market.
More often than not, teams or outsourced agencies follow an innovation method, create many concepts that are new to the market and certain to create new value, but are crushed by the cultural antibodies of a place while still an embryonic idea.
To mitigate this internal risk and overcome this too common barrier, risk taking should be encouraged and strategies that welcome new business models should be rewarded. Ultimately, culture is simply defined by how people express (or do not express) themselves in a given organization—the guiding norms of a place.
The guiding light of any successful innovation project is the intrapreneurs that navigate the old world of the existing business culture and the new world of possibility at the same time. Their influence can determine if a project thrives or dies.
Here are three essential tips for Innovation Intrapreneurs:
Build a multi-department team. You’ll need help from every critical discipline to manifest this work. Gather a mix of marketers, strategists, engineers, financial, regulatory, and other key departments as part of the core team. You’ll need help from different skill sets and a variety of problem solving approaches. Once gathered, go through a few exercises to eliminate the idea of role and department. Rename each person for this project. Agree to not have any rank during the tenure of this project. Finally, do an exercise to give voice to the organization’s orthodoxies you may encounter so you have the power to say, “yes, that is our current reality, but it’s not Reality.”
Form a Realization Group. Recast the roles of key stakeholders as a Realization Group. These are the people used to saying “no” for a living—legal, brand, regulatory, etc. By changing the language and style of engagement with them, you reframe their response. Have them agree to use Appreciative Inquiry as a method of inquiry for this project, and that they must commit to exploring How to make things work instead of analyzing reasons Why they might not work. Ensure responses follow this method of communication. Reframing how these roles work and resetting their language defaults will aid your mission immeasurably.
Leave the building. Get out of your head and go out into the world. Begin with the intention of deeply understanding the context of those from whom you’ll be solving problems. Go into people’s homes, their closets, and go shopping with them. You will be surprised how much this seemingly little action can add value to the process. As one world-renowned chemist told me after visiting a few contact dermatitis sufferers in their home and understanding their routines, rituals, and struggles, “we need to start every project this way or we are just creating for ourselves.”
These three essential tactics will empower any innovation intrapreneur and create a culture of engagement and encouragement.
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Michael Graber is the co-founder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis. Follow Michael @SouthernGrowth