Follow me back 45 years ago, when my Mom invited me to skip school and visit Dad’s office at Litton Industries.
This represented a BIG adventure to me. I knew Dad was a mechanical engineer, but I never truly understood what his job entailed. This was my chance to get answers.
We pulled up to the four story, steel gray industrial building in West Hartford, Connecticut. As we exited the elevator, I spotted Dad in the conference room. Donned in his typical work uniform—a white, crisply starched Oxford shirt, crew cut hair, and thin tie, he was leading a design session with his fellow engineers.
I blithely sauntered into the conference room, eager to participate. Embarrassed, my Dad escorted me out of the room and firmly asked me to wait in the lobby. In spite of his reprimand, I knew deep down that he admired my chutzpah and my insatiable curiosity.
I share this early foray into innovation in the following 3 minute video. It will pique your curiosity around your own propensity to innovate.
So, are you REALLY a marketing innovator? In other words, do you apply your creativity to create a new, improved level of value for your customers? It’s an important question to explore.
In many business programs, “marketing innovation readiness” is often ignored. My clients often want to jump immediately to discovering innovations without doing the necessary groundwork to set the conditions for success. It helps to look in four areas:
Culture and Behaviors:
The clarity, consistency, and reinforcement of innovative operating norms, and the level by which innovative behaviors are aligned with the company’s primary growth discipline. In innovative groups, these norms include failing fast, quick decision making, and frequent internal/external stakeholder collaboration. Innovators focus on success, not perfection.
The willingness of supervisors, managers, and directors to schedule “think time” for themselves and their teams. Innovative leaders share a strong level of trust, lifelong learning, and curiosity about the world around them. They observe and regulate how much change their teams can digest. They are bold about saying “no” to zombie projects, and build compelling cases for additional resources. They consistently apply critical thinking to discover unmet customer needs and challenges.
Discipline and Team Alignment:
The degree to which your marketing team practices, rewards and encourages focused planning, aligns growth disciplines (such as product leadership, operational efficiency, or customer intimacy), and clearly cascades company-wide goals with an eye towards innovation.
Case in point: I have a client in the technology field that prides itself in being a product leader. Yet when I encourage the CMO and her team to innovate (which means that they can create a NEW and IMPROVED state for their customers), they tinker with fixing and streamlining old lead generation, sales reporting and customer support systems. That is the behavior of a problem solver, not an innovator.
Structures and Systems:
The level and speed by which the company launches and aligns breakthrough marketing structures, compensation, and marketing programs with their growth discipline (e.g. if a company’s core discipline is operational efficiency, they may create a brand new, disruptive process to streamline the customer’s ability to implement their solution). Innovative companies create and sustain strong external networks for inspiration and ideas.
Google, for example, offers a “20% time” policy to employees to explore new ideas in their own way. This has led to three banner product launches: AdSense, Gmail and GoogleNews. You can learn more about that sometimes controversial program here.
If you would like to measure your Marketing Innovation Quotient (MIQ) in these four areas, download the complete (free) MIQ assessment. It requires 3-5 minutes to complete. You will also receive our latest CMO Innovation Trends report.
Clearly, being an innovative marketer isn’t for sissies.
When did you first realize you were passionate about innovation? I would love to hear about it. Share your story below.
Copyright 2015, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.