Establishing Your Innovation Group? Don’t Skip This Often-Overlooked Step

22 Feb 2021
Establishing Your Innovation Group? Don’t Skip This Often-Overlooked Step
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Nick Partridge

Whether you’re starting a new innovation group or evolving your current efforts, it’s critical to define your group’s structure, purpose and value to the broader organization. Nick Partridge, VP, Innovation, introduces a new tool to help you do it, eliminating the us vs. them dynamic that can lead to a group’s demise.

Innovators and designers are quick to preach the power of empathy in their work, immersing in the wants and needs of their users and consumers. And yet that same sense of empathy is rarely extended to your colleagues and “customers” in the core business of your organization.

In fact, Big Co. innovation groups often cite “the core business” as the leading source for innovation failure, often nicknaming them Corporate Antibodies or Middle Management Permafrost.

Avoid the “Us vs. Them” Dynamic

Simply put, this “us vs. them” sentiment is counterproductive, and sadly a key reason for why so many innovation labs fail. Your core business colleagues are not “corporate antibodies” to be blamed. They are your partners, internal customers and, most importantly, the keys to your innovation group’s long-term success.

Core business people have positive intent, but at first glance they often have different incentives, priorities and perceptions than you—the one responsible for innovation.

Frankly, it’s not without good evidence that they often perceive innovation as slow, expensive, risky, resource-intensive and, most importantly, failing to deliver results.

But if the fate of your innovation group’s ambitions is dependent on your core business colleagues (and it is), then it’s your job to understand their priorities and perceptions of innovation, and then square your ambitions with their priorities.

Understand & Empathize With Your Internal Customer

Sadly, this critical step often goes overlooked and undone.

Eager to get the creative juices flowing and get those “quick wins,” innovation groups prematurely jump to applied innovation: uncovering consumers’ needs, then generating and testing ideas without understanding or alignment on matters like:

  • Internal customers’ priorities, needs and expectations
  • Innovation group’s relationship with the core business structure and corporate strategy
  • Group’s value proposition to the organization
  • Metrics used to define success and return on investment
  • The types of innovation and time horizons the group will prioritize
  • People and resources necessary for the group to succeed
  • How promising solutions will graduate from the group, be commercialized, launched and scaled

We understand leaders of innovation groups don’t have the luxury to take months to wax poetic about their group’s ambitions—nor should they.

What these innovation leaders really need is a straightforward way to quickly and comprehensively define their group’s structure, internal customer, purpose, metrics and value proposition. With this company-wide alignment, they can get busy turning those big ambitions into results.

Gain Alignment & Grow Faster With the Group Definition Canvas

To help answer that very question, we created the Innovation Group Definition Canvas, a straightforward guide to defining and clarifying your group’s structure, purpose and value proposition to your organization.

Inspired by the Business Model Canvas, these 11 dimensions uncover your organization’s most palpable needs and communicate your innovation group’s crystal-clear, compelling value proposition to your internal customers.

Your Organization

1. Internal Customers: Who are your group’s internal customers and early adopters? What are their pains and gains?

2. Organizational Context: What is your organization/leadership history related to innovation? What is your organization’s appetite for change and risk, and how will that impact your group?

3. Internal Relationship: Where does your group fit in the overall organization structure and process?

4. Assets & Advantages: What exists and should be leveraged by your group?

5. Expectations & Outcomes: Quantifiably, what is success in the eyes of your leadership, your internal customers and your group in years 1, 3, 5? What are your key metrics?


Your Value

6. Value Proposition: What value do you deliver to your internal customers? What pains are you solving, what gains are you enabling?


Your Innovation Group

7. Scope & Key Activities: How does your group deliver value?

8. Team & Resources: What resources, talent and support do you need to succeed?

9. Innovation Portfolio: How will you prioritize your opportunities and allocate precious resources?

10. Scaling Up: How will you pilot, develop and scale up your solutions?

11. Cost Structure: How will your group be funded in the near- and far-term? How will you justify your need for more funding?

Create a Culture of “Us”

As an innovation leader, you know the power of empathizing with your end-users and consumers to uncover their unmet needs and co-create solutions that succeed in market.

But empathy isn’t just reserved for your end-users and consumers. Extend that same empathy to your organization, internal customers and partners. You’ll be amazed by the support you’ll receive, the collaboration that is created and the real value your group is able to deliver.-

To get the Innovation Group Definition Canvas, download it here.
Need to define your innovation group, deliver results and overcome the long odds of innovation? Email Nick.

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