Unleashing Innovation in New York


When I first had the pleasure of Chairing and speaking at an international conference on innovation, all the talk was about the stage-gate process.  Literally, talk after talk summarized the steps to market and (figuratively) why seven was better than five but twelve must be way too many.  Interesting, but hardly enough to hold a senior executive riveted for three full days.

Fast forward just a few years later and my how the world has changed.  Unleashing Innovation in NY spoke to the great diversity of innovation approaches.  Yes, stage-gating was still a topic for discussion but added to the agenda was a strong mix of crowdsourcing, innovation through acquisition and a focus on intrapreneurship.

Full disclosure, as an entrepreneur, intrapraneurship fascinates me and dominates my innovation practice.  Simply put, it’s about embracing the ideas of your employees – be they 300 or 300,000 strong.  Sounds simple.  Should be intuitive.  But, it’s been slow to emerge (at least for my liking).

Maybe this will get your started. A recently co-authored article by the Disney Institute and McKinsey offers this important insight, “The secret to delighting customers? Put employees first.” That’s encouraging. Delight your employees and they will delight your customers with “new, better and improved” products and services.

Intuitive, really. Who better to recognize product, service and process opportunity than those on the path to the customer?  And what better way to motivate and engage your workforce than to listen to them and respect their insights.  This was, in fact, the single biggest focus of the conference and made for great discussion, insights and debate.

Borrowed from the pages of the conferences’ overview, “Savvy leaders shape the culture of the company to drive innovation…design interplay between company’s strategies with the ways people actually relate to one another. “

Other insights from the conference include:

  • Large companies are striving to emulate a small company’s entrepreneurism
  • Customers are consistently being put at the front of the process
  • Focus has shifted from process to people emphasizing integration, culture and organization transformation
  • The challenge of ingraining innovation into the culture is a difficult one facing many companies
  • Unconventional partnerships are being forged to speed up the innovation process
  • The majority of companies are grappling with the vulnerability of risk taking
  • Walking the talk with regards to encouraging risk taking is still proving to be difficult
  • The answers are within your organization, you just have to ask your employees

Unleashing innovation needs to embrace all forms of innovation from the traditional top-level stage-gate approach through to inclusiveness of intrapreneurship.  But, as we learned, getting started can be as simple as listening, sharing, collaborating, empowering and engaging with purpose, a positive attitude and a culture of belief.

I’m in.

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