Talented Innovation Cheerleaders Spark Team Wins
In school sports (unlike professional sports, where cheerleaders are more of an attractive distraction), cheerleaders can often play an important, necessary, and sometimes overlooked role: to generate crowd enthusiasm and support to encourage their team to play its best. So it is in the field of innovation. Corporate cheerleaders can be essential to build and maintain enthusiasm for innovation candidates. The absence of an obvious innovation champion can seriously threaten a technology candidate's viability. An open innovation (OI) cheerleader can make the difference between an prospective innovation's success and failure.
It's challenging to play this role effectively, as it requires deftness to encourage internal customer advocacy without being pushy. It also can entail cultivating supporters and sponsors among individuals within the organization with, as Gail Martino, Unilever's OI manager puts it, "a high influence quotient." When appropriate, an OI manager should enlist select influential others within the organization and cite their support to internal customers as a credentialing tactic. (If you have any doubt about its effectiveness, just watch Shark Tank or any expert elevator pitch competition and see how skilled entrepreneurs deftly name drop key supporters/customers to bolster the credibility of their value proposition with would-be investors. Here's an excellent example: watch the powerful resulting impact of a name drop at the 4:20 mark!). Those with such skills can help their candidates earn valuable customer support.
Earlier this year, one of my clients successfully cultivated influencers to support the nutritional technology she was championing. She enlisted select, influential members of her company's Sales, Forecasting, and Operations teams, concurrent with her efforts to earn Marketing's (her key customer) advocacy. Citing this coalition's support has helped her to earn their backing, as well.
Cheerleading, while often performed "on the sidelines" is integral to innovation team success. It should be part of your open innovation management game plan.
Last week, I shared a few thoughts on how to improve one's "batting average"; i.e. increasing the adoption rate for technology candidates presented to internal customers. An OI Director from a global foods company agreed that while this is a worthwhile objective, he suggested that (in essence) calculating "slugging percentage" should be considered a worthwhile metric. His point: OI managers need to ensure that they are consistently working on servicing the business units' highest priorities and value added opportunities (e.g. to earn doubles, triples, home runs), versus primarily servicing insistent customers who seek them out for support but whom may not have high priority needs (e.g. hitting singles).
When OI managers are dedicated support resources for an SBU, they may not currently have much discretion over the engagements they choose to accept. If they don't yet exist, mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that OI scouting assignments are (mostly) strategically important and necessary.
Could your innovation team benefit from coaching tips to help improve its innovation sell-in batting average? Consider giving me a call at 614 937-2408.
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