Your business may not be quite as exciting as a space shuttle launch, but accelerating enterprise innovation can work in a similar way. When a shuttle launches, the main engine ignites. After those engines power up, achieving 90 percent of their maximum thrust, a pair of rocket boosters light. Then the shuttle blasts off, eventually achieving orbit and leaving Earth’s gravitational pull behind.
Corporate innovation, when done right, is a lot like that. It starts out with one ignition and powers up from there. But to really accelerate innovation, to break it free of the bonds that weigh companies down — something we call corporate gravity — you need an extra booster or two. Here’s a simple process for building that booster rocket.
1. Construct a mandate for innovation.
Leadership has to commit to innovation as a corporate priority and has to communicate that innovation is important to the future of the organization.
2. Align your innovation engines.
Everything in the company must be aligned with that commitment to innovation. When companies first start building for innovation, they often do it ad hoc — there is no space on the organizational chart for innovation. So a team works together for a specific period of time on an innovation project, and when that time is up, the commitment to innovation goes away. That’s a nice start. But it won’t get you off the launching pad. To do that, you need a chief innovation officer, a department of innovation, or some other full-time commitment. That will boost innovation thrust.
3. Attach the boosters.
When someone is accountable for innovation, you can count on plenty of innovation projects coming from that person or that department, which becomes the main engine of innovation thrust. But to really accelerate the process, leaders need to make innovation part of everyone’s job — operations, finance, marketing, etc. When that happens, innovation drives the company. People will think about innovation regardless of where they are on the organizational chart. That means the CEO and the security guard.
4. Break free from corporate gravity.
What sets back innovation and pulls it down are forces that already exist in a company. For instance:
- Delays by a thousand paper cuts: Innovation projects that require too many approvals by too many people and that, as a result, take too long to launch can wear down the resolve of those who might otherwise pursue innovation.
- Fear of failure: Launching rockets is risky business. But when companies are afraid to fail, despite successful innovation launches in the past, they stifle the process.
- Conflicting priorities: Various departments and leaders may be trying to move the company in different directions on innovation. That’s why the alignment of those main engines has to be maintained vigilantly by top leadership. When top leadership sees to that, your organization will be a go for launch.
Are you giving innovation the momentum it needs to push your organization to breakthrough performance?