Making Innovation Happen in the Downturn

by Stefan Lindegaard

Innovation LeaderWhat should innovation leaders do make things happen in times like this to? Let me present you with some ideas and hopefully you can add more advice on this in the following discussion. Here are eight quick tips:

1. Align With Executives

  • You need to have a better alignment between the innovation strategy and the overall corporate strategy. One way to do this is to make an extra effort of understanding what matters most for the executives right now and deliver on this.

2. See What Comes Next

  • Once you deliver what the executives would like to see right now, you still have to be able to see what comes next and make sure that your company moves in that direction . The small wins gained by aligning with the executives hopefully make them more attentive to your suggestions on how to develop strategies on what comes next.

3. Go External, Get Connected

  • As we move towards open innovation, you need to build better personal as well as corporate networks. Look at the external sources you should connect with to develop the offerings of your company and expand your own career opportunities.

4. Become A Digerati

  • As you work to develop more external ties, you need to gain a better understanding of social tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs and perhaps even Facebook. Facebook has a more private focus but there are industries where you need to understand how Facebook works in order to innovate better. Use these tools to gather and distribute information and knowledge and to build your personal brand if you have set a strategy for this.

5. Build Your T-Shape

  • In short, the T-shape is about having depth as well as breadth. You need to understand how other business functions work and why they are important to the innovation process. One way to do this is to convince your executives that job rotation programs are great vehicles for building a better overall understanding of your company and its offerings.

6. Get Noticed

  • In times like this, you need to make sure you get the proper credit for the work you do. I am not saying that you should just focus on your personal brand and disregard the work of colleagues. Find the right balance remembering that no one likes shameless self-promotion.

7. Adjust Your Drive

  • Working with innovation you most likely have a faster drive and pace of change than that of your colleagues. You need to be careful about launching too many initiatives and pushing too hard as you need to get the support from others to get results. From time to time, you need to stop, look around and ask yourself if you have enough key stakeholders backing your projects.

8. Build Your Management Portfolio

  • A majority of the innovation leaders I work with aspire to climb the corporate ladder and even become executives. In this case, you not only need to understand other business functions; you need to work in other functions such as sales in order to get the management experience needed to advance to higher positions. One reason is that innovation is carried out in smaller units not giving you the experience of working in – or leading – a larger department.

I have only heard of a few cases in which innovation leaders advanced directly to executive positions; you need to build further on your resume. Perhaps this is the time to develop new skills and competences by taking on new challenges?

Just some thoughts… I look forward to hearing your comments.


Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

Leave a Reply