21 January 2020

The Art of Corporate Innovation

Guide the Team, Turn the Ship


Companies that desire hypergrowth must understand their innovation index. During the course of my 15-year career, I have worked with several product organizations creating products from the ground up. Many of those products have gone on to win awards or become patented. I have found that the following 4 attributes must be present if you are going to master corporate innovation. 



The Hard Truth: You are still doing the same thing, yet expecting a different result. Have you asked yourself why?


Attribute 1: Healthy Teams, Healthy Results

Have you ever wondered why it’s hard to launch new ideas at some companies and why it’s really easy at others? If speed, agility, and collaboration are not core values of your company, you may find yourself banging your head against the wall. These core values give rise to things like execution and innovation. Teams that are territorial with their time, talent, and funding find it very hard to collaborate with other teams and therefore innovate. Building psychological safety and trust at the center of your teams is one of the most important roles you play as a transformational leader. You can’t just focus on the hard goals; you must focus on the emotional intelligence of your cross-functional teams. It must be a safe place to share ideas and it has to also be safe to fail. A healthy team allows failure, learns from mistakes, and bounces back quickly.


The Hard Truth: If you can't get along, you are not ready to grow. Growth only magnifies problems. You can’t ignore it or make it go away. 


Attribute 2: Fund Only What Matters, but Fund it Well 

Does your organization pull funding for innovation when it’s time to cut budgets? I once worked for a company where we were experiencing extreme financial pressure and the economy had taken a downturn. We made the decision to double down on our investment in innovation and it paid off handsomely. As others stopped dreaming and went into survival mode, we pulled ahead in the market. Innovation should be a facet of your business that you always augment and never discount - find somewhere else to pull your money from when times are tight. .  Warren Buffett was once quoted as saying: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” It's innovation that will pull you forward when it comes to weathering the storm.


The Hard Truth: It will take a lot longer than you want. Innovation is not a microwave, it's a slow cooker. 


Attribute 3: Strategy - Align or Fail 

From customer experience to product strategy and sales enablement, alignment between teams will make or break a product launch. Where there’s no plan in place, we see doomed and failed launches. Teams must coordinate and overlay their strategic plans, locate gaps, and adapt to the shifting economic climate if they want to experience real success. Innovation is no longer about individuals – it’s about teams. Teams must move as one if they are going to be successful.


The Hard Truth: Your teams are not moving as one because they would rather play in their own sandbox. It's faster and easier - and they don't experience any resistance. 


Attribute 4: Ideas - Iterate or Die. There is no Perfect 

If you create alignment with teams, funding, and strategies the ideas become the most approachable part of innovation. Iterating and prototyping are so much easier with healthy teams. Before you ask...yes, you should be iterating and prototyping. If you are launching a software product and it's taking months or years, what’s going on? Release value to the customer in small increments to learn what they love and hate. You should be constantly reaching out for feedback from your customers all the time (weekly/monthly). Your product should reflect the solving of your customer's problems, not your own. 


The Hard Truth: If you’ve never spoken to a customer and you develop products for a living, you may be in the wrong role.


There is more opportunity than you realize, it is bigger than you realize, and it is everywhere. If you want to scale quickly, put these 4 attributes at the foundation of how you think about innovation and build on them from there. Now it’s time to launch your product like a pro!



About the Author: 

Natalie Born is an innovation strategist and has created a proprietary innovation index. She has spent the last 15 years designing and creating products with the goal of creating customer delight. She has contributed to two approved US patents during her career and is passionate about helping organizations leverage the incredible talent they have to create the outcomes they desire. 
















Innovation Meets Leadership