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Integrating Innovation: Step 1 to Failure

Last November, Angela Yeh, Founder and CEO of Yeh IDeology, took part in DMI’s Web Conversations, geared towards organizations and business owners, management and hiring managers with the specific topic challenge: "How to Build Innovation into Your Organization”   In this series, we’ll be revisiting Angela’s talk, “Integrating Innovation,” while highlighting excerpts, thoughts from the talk, and delving further as we go into each of Angela’s 7 best tips for innovation success and 3 major pitfalls to avoid.

Shall we continue?


INTEGRATING INNOVATION Step #1 to Failure: Siloing & Orphaning. Avoiding the Guitar Solo

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Steps 1-7 covered our best tips for innovation success. By now, you’ve decided the type(s) of innovation at the proper scale, determined your starting point, elected your leaders, laid out a plan, trimmed down distractions, and wrangled everyone to the same page. If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to discuss failure.

Step 7, in particular, focused on the need for consensus and coordination, whether across a team, a department or company-wide. As you move forward, this will be your biggest challenge: Keeping your initiative alive and current on everyone’s planner, while juggling the rest of your other hats. This is a time when eyes begin darting down at smartphones and chairs are being slowly wheeled back to their desks.

This is because you’re proposing systematic change. And change is hard. Very rarely do we have the luxury of building from scratch and the longer a process or set of protocols has been in place, the harder it will be to adjust course. Imagine attempting to turn a kayak versus cruise ship.

To turn the ship and roll with this natural tendency towards business-as-usual, you will need to identify your barriers and devise plans to break them down or circumvent altogether. This goes back to your plan of action in Step 5, the details you’ve sussed out in Step 6, and of course, consensus and coordination in Step 7. Or rather, the flip side of these steps—where if you fail to plan correctly, you risk your efforts becoming siloed or worse, orphaned and abandoned altogether by the very teams you just met with. As fun as it looks in live concert, don’t let this be your guitar solo.

And yet, sometimes it’s unavoidable for any variety of reasons: a lack of capability, interest or appropriate vision, insufficient time—there never is—minimal resources, excessive red tape, or bloated bureaucracy. Sound familiar? Take heart because you’re not alone. As an example of silo-ing, we had one corporation where the company owned many different businesses. Because of their vast infrastructure, they missed multiple opportunities to share resources, which greatly impacted their bottom line from a cost standpoint, as well as their ability to coordinate initiatives across these businesses. Understanding this, we brought in someone who knew systems; someone comfortable reaching across different departments and disciplines that could balance all the individual objectives, while also identifying opportunities for increased connectedness and efficiencies. In this case, this particular change agent was inserted at a very high level to work with everyone in the entire chain, from the C-suite to IT to marketing, design, customer service, and even shipping. Their key role: educating stakeholders to be as knowledgeable as they are and attaining consensus on the need to innovate internally—before addressing other sexier end-goals specific to each individual business unit.

At Yeh IDeology, we think of this ability to educate as being multilingual: an ability to speak to all stakeholders in their own language, then translate and communicate the needs, objectives, and capabilities they discover to all other stakeholders involved; a capacity and willingness to hear out all the challenges and incorporate appropriately into current efforts or future initiatives; and an authentic understanding that a success for the innovation team is ultimately a success for all within the organization.

Key takeaways: Get to know your various teams and departments and the potential barriers you’ll face. Then, identify effective channels of communication and focus on keeping those open and updated. Involve all your stakeholders and delegate this priority to them as well. As noted in previous steps, enlist as many stakeholders as possible and keep them involved with relevant roles and responsibilities. Active participation breeds broad ownership, and in turn, better advocates for communicating the change that is needed. Build this ownership and messaging in company-wide; that way, the efforts of the various teams—though individual—remain coordinated and integrated within the larger initiative. Then, with a solid mesh network in place—whether it be through, up, over, around or under—focus on moving forward.


Next on our blog series: Step #2 to Failure: Purpose without Power. Empowering, not Undermining


Interested in this topic or others we've been speaking about? Click on the word bubble to leave us a comment, send a tweet, or connect via LinkedIn! Want to hear directly from Angela Yeh and her 15+ years of design recruiting experience? Drop us a line at info@yehideology.com