Innovation Junkies Podcast

BONUS: A Thriving Innovation Engine

The Jeffs chat about how to create a thriving innovation engine in your organization. These industry-leading tips & techniques include: getting leaders at all levels to buy in to innovative ideas, thinking outside of the box about talent & knowing where to find it, & having ideas with measurable outcomes.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge, and this is The Innovation Junkies Podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategies, and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour, we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, and tips that you can use to grow your business no matter the size, no matter the industry, and no matter the geography.

Weekly, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker. Someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business. And we’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics, and tools that they use to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to The Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Hey guys, if you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our GrowthDX, go to innovationjunkie.com/growthdx. Now let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey guys, Jeff Standridge here. And welcome to another bonus episode of The Innovation Junkies Podcast. Hey, Jeff.

Jeff Amerine: Hey, it’s Jeff Amerine. Glad to be back. And today I think we’re going to cover some tips, right? Tips and techniques and things that make innovation work in organizations.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. Helping innovation to thrive, or something like that, right?

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely.

Jeff Standridge: So let’s talk about those. How many do we have for us today? Three, four, five, something like that.

Jeff Amerine: I think we’ve got five key things that we’ll go through, and I’ll kick us off in this conversation. The first one is, is really this idea that you have to have leadership buy-in. If the leaders aren’t behind it, innovation is not going to stick. And it’s got to be leaders at all levels.

Oftentimes, if it’s just a senior leader and it’s not the middle-level management or supervisory-level management, things will die, because those people will tend to get caught up on the things that they’re used to doing or the things that their performance eval says they should do. So it’s important that you’ve got this alignment of leadership at all levels to make sure that it’s going to work.

Jeff Standridge: Well, you and I have been around a long time. And it’s been my experience, I think, that you’ve probably had the same thing. Where when something is only driven from the top, there can be throngs of people lurking in the shadows to kill it.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jeff Standridge: And it’s why we always say, when you’re trying to sell into a large enterprise, you’ve got to find a champion in the organization outside of the C-suite. And so I think you’re saying basically the same thing. You’ve got to build champions across all levels of leadership in order to make this thing sustainable.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely. And it’s formal and informal leaders. Because sometimes your informal leaders, or the influencers who might not have a bunch of direct reports, are going to be critical. Just because of the subject matter and expertise they have and whatever else. And related directly to that is, the leadership has to foster a culture of innovation that’s going to tolerate iteration. That’s going to tolerate trying things.

It’s occasionally going to be able to tolerate some failures along the way. Because we all know that fail fast and iterate, having things through that process where you’re getting feedback from mistakes you’ve made, is really critical to being successful at innovating. You got to have some of that.

Jeff Standridge: Well, and in that culture of innovation, if we adopt a test-and-learn mentality as well, we’re able to fail faster and less expensively before we put major investments behind some of the innovations that we’re exploring.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. And it’s a fundamental premise that has transitioned us from a waterfall mindset to spiral or agile. And in the lean canvas world, we think about lean canvas processes, design thinking, all those things are based upon this spiraling process, where you build something, you test it, you deploy it, you learn from your mistakes, you add, and iterate as you go. And I think it’s critically important for innovation to work that it is that iterative process.

Jeff Standridge: Awesome. What’s another one.

Jeff Amerine: Well, another one is, none of this stuff can occur in a vacuum. And nobody really wants to participate in a program where they feel like a mushroom in the dark all the time, so to speak. A regular process of communicating-

Jeff Standridge: Wet, damp, and in the dark.

Jeff Amerine: Wet, damp, and in the dark, right. Exactly. It sounds like Arkansas in the spring, right? But it is this importance of having this process of regular and effective communication. And I think there needs to be an element of concision. But there also needs to be a drumbeat of regular communication about what’s going on with the innovation process. And sometimes it’s not just about, kind of a pollyannaish way of looking at everything being great. Sometimes it’s about, we took this chance. We tried these things. It didn’t quite work out, but this is what we learned.

So a process of celebrating the process and the successes, along with some of the setbacks you have. I think that is critically important as well. That level of transparency and regularity of communication is really crucial.

Jeff Standridge: I don’t know if it was Astro Teller at Google X or who it was that said, there’s just as much value in celebrating the failures or the ideas that you killed before you invested a ton of money in them or before you put a lot of human resource behind them. There’s just as much value in celebrating those failures, so to speak, as there is in celebrating those moonshot successes.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. Or said another way, if you fall in love with the process, because you know the process will make things better. Don’t fall in love with the product or a particular idea. Be a consultant to it yourself. And then that communication along the way, I think is really critical.

The next one that plays right into this and they’re all really kind of linked is you’ve got to win that war on talent. You not only have to have great talent with a great culture, but you’ve got to have them in the right seats with the right tools, the right process, the right mindset.

You can have great talent, and if you rely on personal heroics and divine intervention, you’re not going to get there. In fact, it’s detrimental. It tends to build a cult of personality. So finding the right talent, people that can work across lines, that aren’t worried, that are never going to say that’s not my job, but that are going to become integral to an innovation process and building a culture of innovation, that’s hugely important as well.

Jeff Standridge: I think an organization can also be innovative in how they go about sourcing the talent for their organizations. And we just had a podcast guest, Chad Engelgau, CEO and president of Acxiom Corporation, who talked about some of the innovations that they’re doing. Encourage you to listen to that episode by the way, listeners.

But he talked about how they’re innovating by going to the two-year programs, going to historically Black colleges and universities. Looking at places where they may not be associated with a fully accredited four-year degree program, to move into roles that, heretofore, have been predominantly reserved for people who were graduates of four-year accredited programs. And I think that’s an innovative approach within itself.

Jeff Amerine: I couldn’t agree more. And the thing about great talent is where you find it. And it’s not always in the place that you usually expect. People that are innovators are not always conformists. A lot of times, they’re not people that four-year degrees would have worked for. The brightest innovator I ever worked with my entire career was a young guy that had been homeschooled, who was self-taught in innovation and software development. And he was one of the brightest people ever.

Now, after working in industry for a while, he went back and got a PhD. But when I worked with him, he didn’t have any formal education at all. He was just extremely talented. So we’ve come to a point as a society where finding people that know how to do things, regardless of what the parchment says, is the trick. And if you want an innovative organization, you’ve got to have that diversity of background, of educational expertise, and of ethnicity in all of that in order to be successful in the process.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got to have the multiple perspectives that are brought to the table when you have a diverse team and a diverse workforce and a diverse talent pool.

Jeff Amerine: Well, and the final thing, the fifth point as we go through all this, Jeff, is nobody’s doing innovation for the sake of innovation anymore. It’s not an academic or a theoretical pursuit that you do just because. It’s got to add value. Ultimately in an enterprise, you’re innovating, because you’re going to improve a customer’s situation, or you’re going to improve an internal process, or you’re going to improve your performance. But it’s got to be something that’s measurable. That’s adding value. It’s either driving revenues or reducing costs.

And so coming up with the right measures of how to do that and holding an innovation process accountable to measurable outcomes, I think is the final key point.

Jeff Standridge: Run through those five one more time for us, will you?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. So it’s leadership. It’s leadership, buy-in at all levels. That’s number one. It’s a culture that tolerates and embraces and celebrates innovation and the process of iteration. It’s regular, frequent, concise communication and celebrating both the wins and the setbacks that you have during the process. It’s winning the war for talent. Looking for talent in unexpected places and getting great talent that knows how to do things, maybe regardless of what their institution of higher learning was or wasn’t.

And then it’s having real measures that relate to profit and loss, and measurable outcomes. How’s this going to drive revenues or decrease costs? It’s got to add value.

Jeff Standridge: That’s awesome. So we’re talking about how to build a thriving innovation engine within your organization. Hey, I’ve got an idea. How about on our next bonus episode, we talk about the ways that organizations kill innovation within their companies?

Jeff Amerine: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, let’s do it. We’ve seen a little bit of that happen.

Jeff Standridge: Yes, we have. All right. You’ve been listening to a bonus episode of The Innovation Junkies Podcast. Thanks for joining. We’ll see you next time.

Jeff Amerine: Hey folks, this is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying The Innovation Junkies Podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now, and please leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.

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