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How to Convince Internal Stakeholders to Endorse Corporate Innovation Programs

At XNode Powered by HighTechXL, we spend most of our days working with and speaking to intrapreneurs - the change-makers within larger organizations. Almost all of them have one single thing in common: they LOVE innovation and they see so many ways to provide more value to customers, disrupt entire markets or improve elements within the organization.

However, in today’s China, corporate innovation is still in its infancy. So as a corporate (want)trapreneur - with a passion to invoke positive changes within your corporate, the questions become:

· How do you get everyone to see what you see?

· How can you convince your stakeholders to buy into corporate innovation?

From our experience with working with over 50 corporates and spanning over 400 projects, these are our top 3 pieces of advice to you.

  1. Inspire 

Oftentimes, your stakeholders might be reluctant to start any innovation program simply because they do not understand what innovation is all about. They might feel intimated by everyone talking about startups, pivoting, customer validation and growth hacking.

One of the most effective ways to overcome such hesitation is through inspiration. Invite a startup founder to share his journey of going from idea towards a successful venture as well as the hardships and difficulty of building a business.

Provide examples of companies that are truly improving the world through innovation; Share a documentary on the life of Jack Ma or Elon Musk; Organize a late-night brainstorm with pizza and beer and imagine what a 7-star customer experience would look like for your customers as Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky famously pioneered.

Follow up by asking your stakeholder why they do what do. What motivates your stakeholder to get out of bed in the morning? If you can use that intrinsic motivation and connect it to innovation, you will have inspired them. And inspiration is the best breeding ground for action.

2. Treat your stakeholder like your potential customer

The essence of innovation is a total dedication towards solving your customers’ problem. Imagine your stakeholder to be your customer. What problems are they facing? What are their KPI’s? What do they care about in their job?

"What problems are they facing? What are their KPI’s? What do they care about in their job?"

Often, the easiest way to get anything going is by finding a very small innovation project that addresses an immediate need of your stakeholder for which he or she does not have a solution yet. Position yourself in such a way, and you will be a blessing in disguise. For one of our current corporate clients, the CEO was extremely skeptical of corporate innovation and its impact on the business. He was on the other hand, extremely dedicated towards improving the quality of the services provided to the clients of the organization he was leading. As soon as we showed him that we can potentially improve quality significantly with a minimal investment, he jumped in and endorsed the innovation program fully.

3. If all else fails, start a revolution

Disclaimer: Please take note that while we encourage positive changes in your organization, it should not be disruptive nor be detrimental to your own company.

If the above still does not work, we have to go about innovation from the bottom-up:

1. Hang anonymous stickers throughout the work space, allowing people to express their ideals about innovation while simultaneously letting everyone know that at the current pace of disruption, the organization might be in danger.

2. Encourage everyone to head out, communicate with customers, promote new ideas and encourage feedback on how the customers feel/think about the new idea. As long as you can get the customers' affirmation that they are "willing to buy" the idea, this “customer pull” will allow you to push for innovation easier with the top management 100X easier

3. Recruit your fellow like-minded team members and write a list or "declaration" on your ideals and push for the revolution of innovation in the company

4. Talk to colleagues in different departments and ask them to write down the 5 most serious concerns/problems or complaints that they received from their clients. Collect all of them as your "goldmine" of ideas.

And you can do all the above: WITHOUT asking for permission Instead, ask yourself two questions:

1. Am I helping my organization? If yes, move to question 2

2. Will this get me fired? If not, execute your plan.

"As long as you can get the customers' affirmation that they are "willing to buy" the idea, this “customer pull” will allow you to push for innovation easier with the top management 100X easier"

Lastly, remember to bring your findings to the attention of a decision maker in your company; someone who is able to open the doors and fundings to scale ahead with the ideas (or prototype) that you and your team have done.

Starting an innovation revolution is by no means easy.

However, easy things are not much fun anyway.

Get cracking today, inspire, treat your stakeholder like a customer or start a revolution!

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