How to launch your first corporate innovation programme

Launching your first corporate innovation programme can be tough. There's a lot that can go wrong. Do it right, though, and the rewards can be game-changing. This week, we give you the tools you need to make your first programme a success.

by Charles Daniel

We know just how much pressure can be on the shoulders of innovation managers. So many companies neglect corporate innovation for decades. Then, when the watershed moment hits, all eyes turn to you to make something dramatic happen. If you’re going into this with little-to-no experience, it can be hard to know just where to start.

Don’t forget though, that you’re already on the right track. You’ve identified a need for innovative change and that, perhaps, is the most crucial step of all. What you need now is a framework to get your corporate innovation programme off the ground.

The steps below will guide you through the crucial decisions you need to make before you can launch your corporate innovation programme. You can work through them on your own or with a team, just remember to document your plan so you can sign off with the right stakeholders. Once you have these five crucial components in place, all you need to do is execute.

Step one: Identify your strategic challenges

What do you want to change? So many innovation managers forget to answer this crucial question before they design their corporate innovation platform. The result is a directionless programme that wastes its resources on brainstorming sessions and fancy tools with nothing to show for it. Make sure you understand the problems facing your team, both big and small, and how you’re going to track change. Anthony Catanese does a great post-mortem on Adecco Group’s failure to clarify this question; the remit “Go forth and innovate” is simply not enough.

Make sure you identify your strategic challenges before you get started on building a programme. Who are you trying to help with your innovation programme? What are the underlying KPIs you want to impact? What has stopped you from innovating in the past? Clarifying these questions will give you direction, momentum and keep you from replaying the mistakes of the past.

Step two: Find leaders with innovation experience

That might be you, somebody in your team or even an external consultant. Whoever you pick, you need somebody who has experience dealing with the common pitfalls of innovation. When hiring for your leadership team, think first about your existing resources and find people that have already expressed an interest in innovation. And don’t forget, change makers can sometimes be a lot closer than you think.

Step three: Sign off a budget

If your company is serious about innovation then it’s going to have to invest. You need cash to make effective changes, and anybody in your management team that’s resistant to that notion is not fully committed. On the plus side, you now have a talented innovation leader in place who has proven experience turning innovation into ROI. Secure funding by building case studies and showcasing potential benefits for the company. Check out our previous series on ways to measure innovation output and visualise ROI for great case studies.

Step four: Define your scope

This is perhaps the defining question of your innovation programme; whose ideas are going to shape change in your organisation?

Some companies believe in small, expert-led innovation teams that drive change from the management level. This enables tighter implementations and swifter changes to company-wide policies. Innovation labs, external consultancies and c-level innovation systems are all quality choices for driving top-down innovation.

Other companies benefit more from grassroots change. Bottom-up innovation programmes allow ideas to come from those closest to your key challenges. Implementations can be more effective and have a broader stakeholder buy-in than top-down solutions. However, you’ll need a comprehensive innovation management software to manage these complex systems effectively. It can even be used to combine top-down and bottom-up approaches to get the benefits of both.

Step five: Blueprint your platform

So you know who’s going to be in your team and you know who’s going to lead it. Now all you need to do is design the process. The crucial step here is including a plan for rapid implementation. You need to be able to acquire sign off and execute on your ideas quickly, so plan a method to fast-track your projects through management.

You’ll also need an implementation team standing at the ready, whether that’s developers, project managers or whoever else you need to get your idea built. Make sure you plan these avenues in advance. You need to know that they have the resources they need to execute quickly. This can be a little difficult when you don’t know what your first project will look like, so keep your options open.

Do these five steps well and you should get off on the right foot; identify your challenges, pick great leaders, create a budget, define your scope and draw up your blueprint. We’re going to be zooming in on this final step in the near future, so stay tuned for more details on how to plan out the perfect system for your next corporate innovation home run.

To learn more about how we do it here at Idea Drop, simply drop us a message in the chat below. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

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