Most companies talk about wanting to be more innovative, but few take the steps needed. In this discussion, I discovered the five steps organizations can take to be more innovative, from someone who has successfully executed the steps many times.
Recently, Ingersoll Rand was ranked #9 for Innovation in Fortune’s Most Admired Companies 2015. They made the #9 ranking the very first year they appeared on the Fortune list – a great accomplishment. Clearly something is changing at the company in terms of innovation, and this change is being driven by Michael Wynblatt. He is the Vice President of Innovation & Emerging Technology at Ingersoll Rand. He has also led innovation at other companies, helping more than 40 technology-based products come to market. This includes serving as the VP of Innovation for Eaton Corporation and the VP and Chief Technology Officer at the Siemens Technology to Business Center. Throughout these roles he has learned a great deal about helping companies become more innovative and specifically how to create a culture that breeds innovation.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- What is the charter of your role as VP of Innovation and Emerging Technology at Ingersoll Rand? My main responsibility is to build the innovation capability of the entire organization. This includes developing processes, tools, and methods and then providing training for these. I also have a team that models and demonstrates what good innovation process looks like.
- How did that role come into existence? The role has existed for 3.5 years. The need for the role came about because the company has been undergoing a transformation to take advantage of the synergies between the businesses through a business operating system. We are creating functional expertise around a lot of different areas, including human resources and engineering and operations, and innovation was one of those.
- At the Back End of Innovation conference you spoke on creating an innovative culture in large organizations. You know a lot about this as you have accomplished it at three large industrial companies. What does it mean to have a culture of innovation? Culture is how the company behaves and what we do. To have a culture of innovation, you need three things. (1) Your leadership must aggressively promote the expectation that you should identify new ideas. (2) Resources actually get prioritized for taking action on groundbreaking ideas. (3) Your employees prefer to join the teams that are working on those game-changing kind of topics.
- You created a series of steps for creating an innovative culture. What is the first step? Step 0 (I start with 0 because I was trained as a computer scientist) is setting expectations that creating an innovation culture is a multi-year journey. In one experience I had, the first three years of the journey didn’t product a lot of success but that dramatically changed after year three. It takes time to get the culture thinking and acting differently.
- What is the next step – Step 1 in your numbering system? Step 1 is adopting an innovation methodology. Any innovation methodology is better than none – find one that works for your organization. A key here is what I call standardizing the antidote. Identify the real barriers that are preventing innovation today. Pick one or two that are really critical and make doing the opposite the standard in the company. That is how barriers are removed.
- What is Step 2? Next, you’re going to need some examples of success and people to create the successes. I call this step building the army – those people eager to be trained with the right skills and can hit the ground running in a very short order to create success. The specialists are the soldiers and the success examples become their ammunition.
- What is the next step? Step 3 is creating transparency and providing recognition for those involved. We need to recognize the people, the projects, and the results, helping everyone see what successes we have going on in the organization. This also involves creating and tracking metrics to measure success. Metrics begin around activity – the actions we take – and mature to include the impact we make, such as in terms of revenue produced and net present value of projects as they pass through decision gates.
- On to step 4. At this point a lot of things are working well – the army is in place, good examples have been created, and successes highlighted to the organization. Next is creating a pool of really big ideas for the organization. One way to do that is to get leaders exposed to innovations occurring outside their organization as well as outside their industry. Attending conferences can help with this. We have also had leaders attend Singularity University to gain new perspectives.
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising […] partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.” – The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli
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Raw TranscriptTEI056-Michael Wynblatt
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