Much of the innovation success lies beyond the Innovators abilities and with “Innovation Influencers”, who have a seat at the organization table and hold a key piece of the puzzle. Every organization has its own set of influencers and each set have their own personal/professional agenda. Understanding the power of these influencers and their agendas is key to successful innovation, and something that an innovative leader should do early in the process.
“Innovation Influencers” hold key pieces of the puzzle required for the innovative idea to succeed. And they could alter the fate of the innovative idea, even for ideas that have market potential and interested customers. Below are some of the key motivations for these influencers (these do vary by size of the company and type of industry, but the list below is most common):
- Sales: Their biggest motivation is the money they get to take home and the end of the quarter. Since majority of their compensation comes from sales commissions, their focus is on the commission revenue they get from selling the innovative idea. If the idea is at the bottom of the sales stack (as measured by immediate sales commission a sales rep can pocket), then it is highly unlikely that they would put in the required effort in selling the idea. This would lead to lower sales and eventual axing of the idea.
- Finance: Their motivation is end of quarter earnings and what they have to report out (to the street and to the board). If there is a significant earnings impact of the innovative idea, finance will use every possible reason to block the idea.
- Operations: This comprises of everything from sales ops, IT, manufacturing, logistics, customer service etc. Most of these players are essential for successful delivery of the idea. Their motivation is to keep their already complicated work life simple, and an idea that complicates their lives is going to face tough resistance.
- Product: This comprises of development, management and marketing and their motivation is yearly budget. Anything that boosts it is good, and anything that harms it is not so good. Also, there are specific delivery metrics for product management organizations which shape their support for the innovative ideas
- Strategy: They could be driven by specific innovation metrics, but usually are “resume watchers” who feel that there resume gets weak if they do not deliver some innovative strategies that make market impact every quarter.
- Legal/HR: Their motivation is to carry out the established policies and guidelines. Any idea that does not fall in line with the policies is not valued by these influencers.
- CEO: Key influencer who has an impact on all other influencers and veto rights. If the CEO is passionate about an innovative idea, he can get all the other players to line up behind the idea. There are a few things a CEO can do to make sure that all parties participate with right intentions. But then the personality and background of the CEO dictates how much leverage he would have on all the influencers. Getting the CEO to become passionate about the innovative idea is the best starting point.
Getting these influencers to line with the innovative ideas and managing them along the journey is the key responsibility of the innovation leader (along with other responsibilities related to delivering innovation that matters to the customer). And there are specific methods for influencing these influencers which I would blog about in future blogs. Understanding the influencers in the organization and having a plan to secure their buy-ins is very critical for innovation.