Pulling Internal Customers into the Innovation Process

How can you best engage your company's decision-makers in your innovation programs? A major Hollywood studio worked with our partners at the ILO institute to advise leaders in the studio’s innovation program.

U+, in partnership with the ILO Institute, is excited to bring you highlights from ILO’s Weekly Virtual Gatherings. This week, a major Hollywood studio and the institute shared the outcomes of their joint efforts to engage company leaders in the studio’s innovation program.

As an innovation leader in a large organization, you’ll often be tempted to demonstrate a high level of activity—you’ll want others in the firm to look at you and your team and say, “These folks are busy doing their thing!”

That’s almost certainly a mistake.

In our experience, few people care about the level of activity in an innovation program. They do care about the impact of the programs that pay out over time. Too much emphasis on activity—instead of focus on results and impact—can make innovation programs feel less effective and important than they really are.

Work that ILO has done through the institute with a major Hollywood film and television studio has made this all the more clear. One key question: How to engage internal customers—company leaders who would receive hand-offs from the innovation team after new programs and projects proved successful.

For the Hollywood studio, we framed the issue in terms of false negatives versus false positives.

“False negatives” means that a good number of ideas that would succeed if developed are killed early.

“False positives” means that a good number of ideas that have no chance of succeeding are given a green light.

With more hand-off receivers—usually function or market leaders who are not part of the innovation team, but who are their internal customers, receiving hand-offs after proof-of-concept—at the innovation planning table, we tend to see more false negatives. Fewer ideas and initiatives get through the pipeline, but those that do are much more likely to succeed.

There are more false negatives in this case. A lot of good ideas are vetoed early, by the potential hand-off receivers.

The alternative is to keep the hand-off receivers at a bit of a distance in the planning and project-vetting stage. That usually means that more ideas and projects from the innovation team are developed, shopped around internally, and not taken up by hand-off receivers. That means more false positives—“we thought others at the firm would leap to take up this new thing, but they didn’t.”

At the film and television company, there was already lots of skepticism about innovation as a discipline. Because of that, ILO advised starting with more false negatives:

  • Bring the hand-off receivers into the planning and vetting process early;

  • Let them veto the projects they don’t believe in, so long as at least a few get through the process.

When those projects get past the proof-of-concept point and are ready to be handed off, they’ll have knowledgeable and already-invested receivers at the ready. You’ll have fewer resisters, more success stories to spread across the company, and you’ll start building the trust and reputation you’ll need to be more adventurous.

What did the Hollywood studio do? They said they wanted to show more innovation activity, more creativity, more energy. So they kept the hand-off receivers at a distance. And their innovation program never got the traction it might have.

The U+ method can efficiently and effectively lead the development, implementation, and improvement of innovations in any sector. To date, we have used this method to bring 90+ products to market, creating over $1 billion in value for Fortune 1000 companies. Check out U+ success stories here.

Get 20 minutes with Sean, the Managing Partner of U+ Americas, to learn more about how U+ can help your company innovate successfully.

Launched in 2005, ILO is a membership organization for large companies, government agencies and not-for-profits, bringing senior executives leading innovation together for knowledge sharing and community building. ILO has completed more than 300 best-practice research reports, focusing on emerging challenges and opportunities. To learn more about ILO, membership benefits, and how to join, visit www.iloinstitute.net.

Check back next week as we’ll be releasing new insights from weekly events with leading innovators from across the globe.

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