“Innovation” is a word that often gets thrown around in sentences overflowing with jargon. But for businesses, when true innovation and change come to life, it can set them ahead of competitors, supercharge revenue growth, and surpass their customer expectations. So this begs the question – how do you set out to make an innovative idea a reality?
Last week, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of industry experts at “Sparking Innovation” to answer this very question. In case you missed it, here are four insights from our discussion that can help you put the ever-elusive idea of innovation into tangible action.
1. Know which ideas are worth pursuing
A reliable internal compass for quickly making good decisions can often require years of leadership experience. But it doesn’t have to. I believe Seth Waite, President & CEO of ALGRTHM, said this best: “The challenge is not coming up with ideas. It’s about saying “no” nine out of ten times.”
When it comes to filtering the good ideas from the bad, you can follow a tried-and-true process for validating them by asking these three questions
- Does the idea align with your business goals?
- Does your idea solve a customer challenge?
- Do you have the resources and time to execute this idea?
Once you align goals and customer needs, the next critical piece is to ensure your team is bought in as well.
2. Alignment, alignment, alignment
C-suite leadership will want to know what’s in it for them, but middle management can be just as challenging to convince if their processes become vulnerable to change – typically because they can stand the most to lose.
When an innovation direction becomes less about a person and more about the purpose, it helps cultivate a sense of psychological safety to encourage honest feedback.
To that end, it’s essential to build a team that is not only filled with diverse skills and experiences but will consider an idea with careful precision and scrutiny where needed.
3. Selling your idea’s story
How do you convince leaders to invest in your idea? It boils down to the story behind your idea.
It’s not necessarily about having an interesting backstory or anecdotes but addressing how an idea will solve pain points while squarely outlining what’s in it for the business.
Panelist Meghan McInerny, Senior Director of Experience Strategy at Best Buy, recommends deep research around the problem you’re trying to solve and humanizing your story through testimonials.
“You’ve got to be able to tell a story of innovation that lights a fire in people’s hearts because you’re going to go through really difficult times,” said McInerny. “At some point, your team is going to have to let go of that idea and someone else is going to have to carry it forward. It’s got to have enough momentum to keep going.”
When ethos and pathos aren’t the right persuasion tactics, panelist Cally Johnsen, Customer Success Lead of Cargill Horizons, says you can always appeal to logic.
When making a case, include data that can fill any gaps in your story, serving as a starting point to build trust and legitimacy.
4. Don’t wait to innovate
We’ve all seen what happens when brands are slow to adapt, especially during external circumstances outside our control. By failing to change, companies risk becoming irrelevant to their consumers. “You can’t depend on what delivered you success yesterday,” said Seth Waite.
So is there an ideal time to start innovating? The answer is it’s ALWAYS the ideal time to start innovating.
When challenges and uncertainty arise, they create opportunities for companies to make an impact and innovate. Conversely, when things seem steady and predictable, take advantage of the time to gather knowledge and experiment with new ideas – you never know when you’ll need to implement them.
Meghan gives an example of an innovation initiative she was a part of at Best Buy. Because they started work before a pressing need presented itself, her team was poised to roll out a functioning solution in a matter of weeks.