12 July 2016

Key success factors for running innovation programs

Tags:Strategy, Innovation

A truly innovative business doesn’t materialise overnight. In my experience, building a company that truly champions creative thinking and boundary-breaking outcomes means running an innovation program that combines action with strategic intent. But how do you operate an innovation program that brings your business roadmap to life? These tried-and-tested factors can make innovation a reality.

Link innovation to your strategic vision

Making sure you link your innovation program and its objectives to your overall strategic vision is essential if you want to stay on course. Without this, you risk deviating from the big picture and losing direction, which can cost you time, money, and resources.

Allocate enough budget

There’s no use preaching about innovation to your staff members if no one has ownership of the project or if you don’t invest any budget to achieve your goals. Allocating the money, time, and resources – well before you embark on your innovation program – might sound obvious, but I can’t overstate the importance of this commitment.

Ensure that your leaders champion a culture of innovation

With your innovation program, it’s critical that all your leaders are onboard. If management doesn’t share the central vision, vocalise the importance of innovation, and demonstrate the mindset and behaviour of creative leaders, it’s impossible to galvanise staff to share their ideas or take them along for the ride.

When I worked with a government department that spent time up-front communicating its vision, linked it to the innovation program, and encouraged everyone to get involved, we found Squiz Roadmap – which draws on the power of crowdsourcing – to be much more effective. More staff submitted ideas, and many submitted multiple ideas, an outcome that means you’re more likely to find that breakthrough idea you’re looking for. This is in stark contrast to other organisations that launch straight into an innovation program with little preparation.

Establish your success metrics at the start

One of the most essential elements of an innovation program is understanding your success metrics and putting them on the table from the start. Does your business want to increase engagement, bolster your Net Promoter Score (NPS), or move into a brand-new market, and how do these metrics align with your long-term goals? Establishing clear success metrics has the added benefit of making measurement and analytics fuss-free. It’s difficult to quantify the impact of innovation, but collaboration, contribution, and engagement are easily measurable. They also signal the fact that you’re travelling in the right direction.

Create a climate in which innovation can thrive

Finally, it’s imperative that leaders foster a workplace that cultivates engagement and enthusiasm. This environment should hear and value ideas and should encourage staff to ask questions, challenge the status quo, and discuss ideas constructively and openly. Such a workplace will only increase your chances of success.

From ensuring that you link your innovation program with your strategic vision to creating an innovation-centric workplace, your program will be more effective if you take these factors into account. 

Have you run an innovation program across your business? What has it achieved and what were your experiences?

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