Google the term “innovation center,” and you’ll find businesses ranging from healthcare providers to jewelry retailers touting their own centers for developing innovative products. Innovation centers are popular because businesses literally cannot afford to make innovation a nice-to-do element of their growth strategy. Innovation is a must-do. But in developing innovation centers, many businesses are realizing that staffing them with a team creates challenges. And one of those challenges is building credibility for the innovation team.
An in-house innovation team faces an interesting paradox: by being in-house, the team can be a permanent and dedicated resource for change. And we’ve seen plenty of in-house teams act as catalysts for breathtaking innovation, as with the Lowe’s Innovation Labs. But sometimes in-house teams suffer from a credibility problem, especially as their tenure ages. A business can be susceptible to the belief that innovation just cannot originate from inside the four walls of the organization (never mind the fact that a dedicated team is supposed to act outside the strictures of the organization).
And yet, in-house teams possess an advantage because they are plugged into the company’s culture and pipeline of ideas more effectively than an outsider is. A great innovation team knows how to balance ‘drinking the kool-aid’ and having a fresh perspective. The goal here is to take the relevant context from the ‘kool-aid’ and pair it with the team’s fresh perspective in an effort to bolster that game-changing point of view’s chances of being highly relevant and applicable to today’s business pressures and priorities.
Innovation centers can build credibility while retaining their objective perspective in two ways:
- Succeed often. Nothing builds credibility like success. To achieve success often, a team needs a repeatable process. Creating a repeatable process that produces successes for the business units gains credibility. But getting that first success story is the hardest challenge.
- Promote success. Innovation teams need to constantly sell themselves to overcome the fear and skepticism that can easily permeate a company. We recommend your team appoint an innovation champion who acts as chief ambassador for the rest of the organization — a senior-level executive who has the ear of your C-level team and understands how to evangelize throughout a company and outside the organization. Do what Lowe’s does: talk about your successes. One of the greatest innovators in history, Thomas Edison, was, in fact, one of the most effective publicists of his day, as he constantly talked up the achievements of his Menlo Park innovation lab. Even Thomas Edison had to sell innovation to be accepted.
Succeed and sell: those are two the bywords for building credibility. For more insight into the challenges and opportunities that innovation teams face, read my recent CMO.com column, “Successful Innovation Teams Share These Realistic Traits.” Contact Moonshot to learn how to unleash innovation at your organization.