We hear from many innovation professionals that they struggle with their program, often, because the company does not really adopt it. The employees won't share ideas, middle managers are consumed by meeting the quarterly goals, top management sees innovation management as a nice-to-have.
I believe that marketing can help here.
What “inbound” means
For those of you, who haven't heard of "inbound" yet: it's a methodology and it is the holy grail for us marketers. The big thing. The underlying idea is that marketing and sales do not push their customers into buying anymore ("outbound"). Instead, they attract them by providing content that's both meaningful and valuable to them. Having said that, I hope this article will be meaningful and valuable to you innovation managers. Feedback welcome.
So when you put on the inbound marketer's goggles and look at your crowd, you have to ask yourself:
WHAT PROBLEM DO THEY HAVE THAT I CAN SOLVE?How inbound relates to innovation management
The point is, why should they even bother? Many innovation managers are "cold calling" their crowd. Communication campaigns focus on advertising the program. Do you like advertisement? Want me to tell you how great our software is? No? Aha! See?
So what should you do? Offer something that is both meaningful and valuable to them! OK, now comes the tricky part: you need to find out what that is and it will highly depend upon you company's culture. If you have a rather energetic, "lets-do-it" type of culture, you might not even have that problem. However, you can create an even bigger buzz by taking bold measures. JJ Juan, Global Head of Enterprise Innovation at Vodafone, shared with us during his presentation at the CINO Summit, October 2014 in London, that people who want to be innovation champions for his program actually have to apply for that job. Including assessment. This exclusiveness causes a magical attraction. You create a need by offering a rare position. Being part of that team of creative minds with all those special operations going on is both meaningful and valuable to the Vodafone people.
However, what if your culture is not quite there yet? Or miles away?
Be the Swiss army knife of your company! Assuming you've found out about what bothers your colleagues (that's really your job, not mine ;)), offer to run campaigns on it. Maybe there is a process that can be improved. Maybe you discover that your middle managers have a problem in aggregating their numbers - some problem that can be solved by technology. Run a campaign to find the right technology (program, app) to take that burden off of them.
But what if people just won't submit ideas, because it's nothing they care about? Or because they are not used to "being on stage", are afraid their ideas might not be good enough to share? Well, they are human beings right? All humans have problems.
WHAT PROBLEM DO THEY HAVE THAT YOU CAN SOLVE?
Offer an ongoing campaign with anonymous submission where people can say what really drives them nuts at work (you probably want to keep an eye on the discussions to prevent an unnecessarily negative spiral; you never know). That, in return, enables you to discover hot issues in the company that need to be taken care of. Management will want to know that. This can be the starting point for change. And it gives you the opportunity to present the innovation department as universal provider of solutions, guardian of the employees, keeper of hidden secrets.
Be meaningful. Be of value. Go inbound.
This article was originally posted on LinkedIn.
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