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Real Innovation – For you Who Want it, Beware the Spoilers

I’m kinda tired of the word “innovation”. It’s one of those terms, like “quality”, that has become generic for what B2B companies and brands need to be. Wouldn’t it be better and clearer if the intent of innovation were more descriptive? Like: “Our brand needs to elevate its competitive position in product development?”

OK, sorry for the mini-rant, but being generic can be a spoiler of meaningful innovation. There are other factors in the mix and one in particular should be guarded against at all costs – CYA.

Don’t know about you but I have seen it way too often. Whether you’re working inside your company or with customers, the urge for status quo can be overwhelming, and often well hidden. How many times have you seen a genuinely innovative strategy or idea quashed by someone down the chain of command because he/she was risk averse? Often he/she resists rattling the cages for fear of an idea being too risky.

eMarketer reported results from a survey on B2B innovation; the top two barriers to innovation: A traditional mindset and risk aversion, with resistance to ideas from non-executives weighing in fifth. Could be a dangerous correlation here.

How do you encourage innovation? Answer number one: Leadership commitment. In my experience, a leader who recognizes the necessity of innovation and the threat of reacting to change instead of creating it, drips – no cascades – down the org chart.

So, when moving ideas up the chart is the task, you need to make sure everyone at every level knows the reward, i.e. what’s to be gained from the risk. Bring in the customer, too. If you can demonstrate how important your innovation will be to the customer, that can iron out furrowed brows pretty quickly. One other way is to employ a relevant analog. Showing how a similar brand achieved growth or competitive advantage by creating change or disruption can get heads nodding,

Recently, we took a risk when reviewing a draft presentation with a contact. We said that we would not present our “big idea” unless all the stakeholders were present for the pitch. We felt is was important enough to get all-at-once air time, including the CEO, in order to achieve the best discussion and, hopefully, unanimous buy-in. Our contact agreed; idea took wing.

It’s the only way to fly.

You can find the eMarketer report here: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Whats-Helpingand-HurtingB2B-Innovation/1012189