How to Create an Internal Innovation Strategy


There has been a lot of focus on external innovation but what about creating an organization that is consistently innovative internally. This requires that leadership put in place an innovation strategy. Like many leadership initiatives, innovation requires persistency, advocacy and a culture to support it. Throw in technology and you have what I have dubbed as the Innovation PACT.

Implement the Innovation PACT in your organization:

Persistency: Innovation takes time to develop and therefore you must be patient and persistent. Innovation will build slow and snowball over time.

Advocacy: A team needs to be developed to monitor, promote and develop your innovation strategy. They will become the face of your innovation initiatives and help tear down roadblocks as well as recognize innovators.

Culture: It is leadership’s job to develop a culture that supports innovation. This requires developing trust by allowing people to fail and instilling confidence into all employees. Leadership must also encourage employees to consistently ask why, help them develop their strengths and provide necessary training.

Technology: Technology is not just a tool to achieve innovation; it is the catalyst for Innovation. It is leadership’s job to understand technology and make sure the technology leaders have a voice at the executive table. The day of being able to say “I don’t understand technology, I leave that to my IT folks” is over. To be an effective leader, you have to understand it.

Let’s take a look at some of these points in more detail.

Creating a Culture of Innovation:

  • Understand and Promote Trust: Employees have to understand that they can be trusted to try new things. Failure is an option and to be consistently innovative, you have to be able to fail faster and fail smaller. The problem becomes when employees feel like they can’t fail and the failures grow into big problems. Experiment. Fail. Learn. Repeat.
  • Add “Why?” to Every Employees Vocabulary: Encourage employees to ask why and model the behavior. Inquiry is our most powerful tool to create positive change.
  • Allow People to Develop Their Strengths: People are naturally passionate about what they are good at. Finding ways to tie what people are good at into their day-to-day works should be the goal of any leader and/or individual. It leads to fulfillment and higher moral.
  • Provide Mandatory Training: Training is often the missing puzzle piece between a problem and a solution. If your people are not developing new skills in today’s fast paced world they will not be valuable very long. We are at the point where it is not how much you know but instead how fast can you learn.

Innovation Advocate Responsibilities:

  • Stay up to date on innovation topics
  • Gather Success Stories
  • Recommend Training
  • Remove Roadblocks
  • Develop a Strategy
  • Manage the Innovation Program
  • Review Policies and Procedures
  • Create an Innovation Program for Gathering and Reviewing Ideas

Innovation Strategy Components:

  • Innovation Goals
  • Organizational Pain-Points
  • Innovation Advocate Responsibilities
  • Innovation Program
  • Training Requirements
  • Recognition System

The goal of this post is to be an actionable plan that you can put in to practice within your organization with some minor adjustments. Below you will find a presentation that can be used to present these topics to others within your organization.

Presentation Link: http://www.slideshare.net/TimHowell1985/leading-innovation-40042683

Tim Howell is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Hannah Moss

Awesome tips, Tim! It’s so important to realize innovation has to be promoted, not just allowed. Thanks for the reminder!

Rachel Niebeling

Thank you for sharing Tim! I have a few friends that are frustrated with trying to innovate at their companies and I just sent them the link to your post. I really like your PACT implementation. My favorite is the training though. I think it gives people something that helps them personally as well as helps the company.

Tim Howell

I don’t know about you but a lot of my Aha! moments come while reading a book, in training or watching a Ted Talk or something similar. So training is extremely important. It kind of goes back to something I did not really cover well in the post, but Innovation is not about an individual, it is about a collective working together. That is where most innovation happens yet we tend to focus on the one-offs.

Sure some people are more creative but without an organizational focus, those people will get frustrated and leave. I think it is important though to understand that anybody can be innovative in the right environment. Focusing at the organization level is what creates sustainable innovation.

Ken Nishiyama Atha

There is a lot of training available, but in the end, I found it was better to customize the training for our needs. We developed a two day training as part of a year long Pilot program we implemented in our San Francisco and Seattle regions. Call or email if you want the specifics. Harvard Business Review put out a great article in 2007, Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail, by John P. Kotter, and it sums up the 8 step approach we are working on. The link is below: http://hbr.org/2007/01/leading-change-why-transformation-efforts-fail/ar/1

Tim Howell

Books, blogs and GovLoop. Not a lot of actual training but tons of good material. The problem is that it is such a large topic and overlaps so many other leadership frameworks. Most of the information I talk about I picked up in Leadership style books, discussions with friends or on the job. The two books in the presentation are good.

It is the job of the advocacy group to provide training on areas where people are weak. This could be a product, something to do with leadership, or innovation practices.