i-diot…because all innovation is i-something…
Simple, sophisticated solutions always generally work better than complex and confusing ones, even if their intrinsic value is equivalent. This is also true in the work that we do as corporate citizens to sell our ideas to drive innovation in the corporate environment.
In today’s world, innovation is a requirement for success, not an option. Hopefully this is recognized in the top levels of the organization and is part of strategic agendas and business unit plans, but despite how important it is, it competes with other business priorities and people’s time evaluate and understand what’s behind a program is always limited. So how can innovation agendas, programs and processes get funded, resourced, supported and developed?
Us innovation soldiers live in the weeds, and those weeds can grow long! Innovation processes, metrics, incentive, systems, engagement, training, projects, experimentation, you name it…we want to do it all and it can become very complex very quickly; when we get our chance to be in front of the decision makers or influencers we would like to get them understand the ins and out of our initiatives and get them as excited as we do. The reality is that many of those ins and out are irrelevant to them, what matters is what impacts them directly. So when you get your chance to be in front of an influencing group, make your communication i-diot proof. I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, but don’t assume that people know what you are talking about, most of them that don’t and probably only know 5% of your what you do – so bring your communication to the lowest possible level so your point and request can be understood in the first 5 minutes and you can use the rest of the time in details or even in further developing the concept with their help. You may feel anxious if some of the nitty-gritty stuff doesn’t get discussed or understood, reality it, this doesn’t matter to them. So get their heads knotting and figure out the rest on your own.
Whirlpool real-life example
In 2009 we executed a global innovation diagnostic. This was a very thorough and somewhat complex exercise that took several months and iterations of synthesis. The learnings were fascinating. I had the opportunity to present this to several levels of the organization in order to start putting the recommendations in action. I was so passionate about the findings and the details behind this study that I wanted everyone to know it all details. I took a couple of groups through it and after going through the presentation I could see people steering at me like deer in the headlights. Questions? I would ask…..silence I would get. After those reactions (if I could call them that) I took a different approach and focused in few, more provocative slides at the beginning with a very small background intro. This created dialogue and I could get into the details when necessary, creating true interest and curiosity from my audience. We could also get into variations of the recommendations with their input and they were able to become part of the solution. The learning for me here is that people don’t care about the details, make it i-diot proof and you’ll have a better short of getting what you need. You can figure out the details on your own or make your audience part of the solution.
As a champion of innovation at Whirlpool I’ve had the opportunity to learn from the best. To reflect, on a daily, almost hourly basis about what works, what doesn’t, what ticks, what excites, even what “sucks” in innovation, in a company that has made it its modus operandi. During this time I’ve been capturing my thoughts in short, suggestive, fun and sometimes provocative sentences I put on twitter @moisesnorena. In these blog entries I intend to expand on what’s behind each i-blurb, hoping to enlighten, even if a little bit, those that are in the continuous search of making innovation work.
image credit: uvs-model.com
Moises Norena is Global Director of Innovation at Whirlpool, where he leads a team that works on the infrastructure that enables innovation. Whirlpool is a company recognized for its commitment to making innovation an enterprise capability by engaging employees in the discipline.