by Robert C. Wolcott and Jørn Bang Andersen
I believe this is an important perspective on scaling growth initiatives—in context of the Driving Organic Growth through Innovation class, this is a way to enable “climbing the Growth Staircase”
First, many innovation initiatives cannot be scaled in a linear fashion. Adding more people often adds complexity and bureaucracy, and often impairs the communication and creativity of the original successful innovation initiative.
The second challenge is that although leaders want more innovation, they are often unwilling to provide sufficient funding—even for those initiatives that have already proved successful. Defending non-core innovation budgets is always difficult.
Over the past decade of exploring innovation initiatives across many industries, we have seen numerous promising initiatives falter in the face of one or both of these obstacles.
How, then, can you take successful models for innovating, typically tested at a smaller scale within special-purpose teams, and expand their impact? How can you do so with limited additional personnel and funds? Over the past few years, we've discovered five reliable ways to overcome this challenge:
1. Replicate proven models: If you decide to replicate an initiative, define a model based on core principles and ensure that leadership and mentorship are readily available.
2. Invest in areas with broad potential that provide options. When considering where to invest, leaders should ask, If my core hypothesis fails, does this investment still provide other paths? To how wide a range of industries or applications might this investment apply? What new capabilities does this investment create for the company, and to what else can they be applied?
3. Recruit and support evangelists. Given the power of social media, customer evangelists are becoming increasingly potent forces for growth. The same can be true for innovation initiatives. Evangelists can be employees who have been part of, or who have engaged with, the innovation team, or people from outside the company.
4. Nurture internal and external ecosystems. Innovation initiatives require resources, people, and organizations in order to grow. Unfortunately, many innovation teams operate in relative isolation, removed from potentially rich environments of engaged partners. They seek input from both inside and outside the company, but they do so on an ad hoc basis. The people with whom they interact often don’t have an active interest in the team’s success.
5. Activate broad networks. Whereas ecosystems involve relationship depth and active commitment, more general networks provide breadth of access to diverse knowledge and capabilities. Socializing your team’s objectives and challenges with broad networks enhances the potential for others to offer opportunities and solutions.