How do you know if your boss gets innovation?

How do you know if your boss gets innovation?


Management Support of Innovation

My last posting on “permission based innovation” generated a lot of comments and email …. some challenging me on the fact that management still needs to “get it”. So, how do you know if your management team “gets it” with regards to innovation? Some time ago, I came across an article at BusinessWeek Online that compares the answers you would get from a series of analysts questions regarding innovation strategy. So – which company do you work for??

If your management team doesn't get it, you have three choices. You can either help your management “get it”, go someplace where the management team “does get it” or do nothing and hope that management is eventually replaced by someone who “gets it”. Its your choice.


“Tell me, what is your company's innovation agenda?”

1. Business-as-usual CEO: “What's an innovation agenda?”

2. Toe-in-the-Water CEO: “We've just identified innovation as one of our top priorities. We'll get back to you shortly.”

3. Switched-on CEO: “Our top 3 priorities are these, here's how they relate to our strategy, here are our challenges, and look what progress we are making.”

“What is expected of the leadership ranks in your organization to support your innovation agenda?”

1. Business-as-usual CEO: “Well, nothing special, why do you ask?”

2. Toe-in-the-Water CEO: “We're hiring more creatives.”

3. Switched-on CEO: “So far we've been able to get about 250 key leaders to our innovation training program plus we're adding new staff. It's tough to go to school on this stuff, but we recognize that innovation is a new discipline. Leaders at every level will have to master the skills if we're going to foster a culture of innovation within their operating environments, drive more open innovation, teach risk-mitigation techniques, and hold the operating units accountable for testing at least three big potential growth concepts per year.”

“Can you point to any direct communication efforts that detail how your innovation agenda is being represented to your various constituents?”

1. Business-as-usual CEO: “Our VP of R&D hired an innovation speaker for his management offsite.”

2. Toe-in-the-Water CEO: “We've just instituted an electronic suggestion box that is noted in our company newsletter. We're paying $250 for the best five ideas that surface each year.”

3. Switched-on CEO: “My last five industry speeches detail the technological challenges and market opportunities we are facing; we talk about some piece of our innovation agenda at every PR opportunity; all our internal communications chronicle our efforts, both good and bad. Here's a rundown of awards to our top innovators company-wide. They especially love hanging with me in Nantucket.”

“How much money are you devoting to the effort and where are the funds coming from?”

1. Business-as-usual CEO: “Innovation is expected on a daily basis, so we have no specific budget.”

2. Toe-in-the-Water CEO: “We cut the annual golf outing from 18 holes down to 9, and we're devoting most of the savings to innovation. We also closed the Starbucks concession out of our call center, so that should about get it.”

3. Forward-thinking CEO: “Our Six Sigma efforts don't normally move the needle for us revenue-wise, but they sure deliver a lot to the bottom line. We've started with a chunky seven-figure budget and we expect to double it with the operational savings we create so we can fund worthy innovation projects at all levels in the company.”

“Tell me, since you think you are on the road to being successful at innovation, what does your change-management strategy look like?”

1. Business-as-Usual CEO. “Excuse me, but can you clarify? I don't get the relationship between innovation and change management.”

2. Toe-in-the-water CEO. “Our plan calls for an appointment of a chief innovation officer. She'll be reporting to the assistant to the V.P. of R&D, so we're expecting a lot of new ideas.”

3. Switched-on CEO: Since our strategy is continually to identify and solve latent user needs there's no telling what this organization might look like in five years. We are committed to doing what it takes to win at adding value to our customers' lives. If that means our asset base and fundamental personnel DNA needs to make a big shift from today, so be it. My organizational-development team is advising me monthly.”

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