Bottom-Up and Top-Down Changes
Senior executives who want an innovative culture must take the lead to make change happen. We all know that employees watch for signs of initiative from their leaders, so it’s no surprise when projects fail due to a lack of buy-in from the executive suite. It’s not necessary for executives to approve of every single exploratory idea, but rather, leaders should send clear signals that exploration is encouraged. This must be communicated consistently and throughout all levels so that the executive management is seen as a catalyzer rather than a barrier to innovation.
Innovative companies often have innovation/technology evangelists who are dedicated to promoting a culture of innovation and lead by example. This amount of effort is necessary as change takes time and persistence. It’s also important that executive managers reward innovative efforts and successes in a clear and public manner, and elevate the intrapreneurs so that more bottom-up initiatives are encouraged. In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation is the key competitive differentiator to success. Companies that understand the need for innovative environments will reap the long-term benefits of greater business performance.
Innovation Mindset: Why Should the Sky be the Limit?
Large organizations must strategically balance the need to adopt changes with the need to maintain their existing products and services. To survive today, high-tech companies must envision and create disruptive technologies faster than ever before. The rate of disruptive innovation and its adoption in the high-tech industry has accelerated – MIT Technology Review reported that telephones took twenty-five years to gain traction while tablets took less than four. While risk assessment is necessary for any decision, today’s companies cannot afford the luxury of slow, calculated moves, or else they risk falling significantly behind the competition, and risk losing both customers and talented, intrapreneurial employees.
A large part of this change requires organizations to dare greater challenges. Innovative organizations think differently. Their idea of improvement is not to “optimize existing infrastructure to get 3 to 5 percent gains,” but rather, “how can I change the rules completely?” In essence, they change the game playing by their own rules and forcing others to follow. It is the mindset that challenges the status quo. It’s prevalent amongst startups, but large companies that successfully innovate also encourage their employees to adopt this mindset. These are the organizations that shift their focus from putting more money in the bank towards creating a world which does not yet exist.
Waterfall Process Morphs into Agile Methodologies
As we discussed in part one, not all ideas succeed. Therefore, intrapreneurs put multiple ideas into action in order to determine which ones can create viable business products. Is there a way to boost the probability of success of any idea? This challenge has been answered by agile approaches like the “Lean Startup” model for rapid prototyping and quickly assessing new ideas, in what is well-known as the “Build-Measure-Learn” method.
With this principle, intrapreneurs can quickly execute on an idea by creating an MVP (minimal viable product), and then measuring and learning from customer responses. This feedback loop is essential to defining products which have real business value. Using an agile method provides faster insights which allow for product development groups to quickly assess when to continue, or to pivot and make alterations based on the market research data, or just simply “stop.”