Creating the Innovation Snowball Effect9 September, 2014 / Articles
Innovation as snowball. True story: An international media company known for its print newspapers appointed a senior leader to drive a “mobile first” strategy for content. The leader was hired by the CEO and reported directly to him, and clearly had executive sponsorship. Yet he saw immediately that he did not have carte blanche to drive what would amount to a revolutionary approach to creating and deploying content. That was too threatening to employees on the print side.
Instead, he built support by piloting a new approach with a tiny team — two or three people. Rather than pursuing a big budget to put content in front of users on their mobile devices he used his credit card to make $50 and $100 purchases of targeted Google ads to pull users in. He walked the halls with the results of these tiny tests, socializing what was happening and gaining valuable feedback along the way. This small-wins, low-budget approach built buy-in with its pragmatism and transparency. Over time others began to promote mobile first, and the idea snowballed.
One might assume that someone put in place by the CEO commanded support. He had permission from senior leadership, yes. But that’s not enough to assure execution. Even the most promising new idea needs the help of people not just up and down an organization, but left, right and beyond.
People are motivated to support a new idea for their own cluster of reasons. They’re looking for what’s in it for them, of course. But they also want to be inspired to join the next big thing.
Innovation is characteristically derived from a broad assortment of ideas, data, chance and inspirations. Building support for innovation requires the same broad outreach to win allies, champions and interest.
Innovators building a support network start with an advantage already built into human nature. People, at every level, want to be part of the “in” group. They’re nosey, they want to know what’s going on and they want to feel like they’re on the cutting edge. The sense of being part of a network building the next big thing feeds that need.
So how does an innovator build a network of support — up, down and sideways?