I’ll often be lined up for a conversation with the CEO of a client organization when I’m preparing for a private client CEO leadership/innovation keynote.
It’s part of a careful diplomatic dance. They want to ensure that the framework of my keynote addresses the key issues and challenges that they need to address to ensure that they can become a high velocity innovation hero. I often work with them to help them understand the unique innovation perspective I am bringing into the room.
During the conversation, I often prepare a summary list of the issues that they put on the table that I’ll use in preparing my talk.
I’ve got dozens of scribbled notes from such conversations. Here’s one that I just came across for an event over a year ago; the CEO of this Fortune 1000 organization (obviously, not named) outlined some of the key themes that I needed to address. As he put it, “we need to:”
- increase our bench strength. We don’t seem to have the right skills and the right capabilities at the right time for the right purpose. We need to get better at our skills mix and agility if we are to max out our creative capabilities.
- institutionalize learning. We tend to fall behind and miss opportunities because our people don’t know enough about what is going on “out there”
- grow high value customer relationships. We could get much better in solving customers problems before they know they have a problem. If we could do that, we could extend existing revenue faster.
- accelerate product innovation. We’re slow. By the time we get to market, our competitor has already been there. We need to speed things up.
- have a better talent pipeline. We’ve got a lot of “dead wood” lying around, performing a lot of tactical, non-strategic work. We need to ensure that we are developing/ingesting new talent faster, for the faster emergence of new issues.
- reduce our structural costs through collaboration. Simply put, there is simply too much duplication of effort. It’s the era of social networks; why can’t we be “social” internally?
- suck less. There’s still huge opportunity to reduce product costs through process innovation and better project execution. (Yes, he did use this phrase)
- scale faster. We really, really need to get better at identifying and capturing growth markets.
- plug knowledge gaps. There’s lots to learn about things we don’t know about. We need to invest more in risk oriented projects. We have to fail faster.
What’s fascinating about these conversations is that the CEO knows the challenges that need to be addressed, and is confiding in me those concerns; my role is helping to build a message for the team as to what they really need to do to become high velocity innovation hero’s.
The simple list above — and this is but one of dozens of such summaries — gives a bit of insight into how you can take innovation beyond simple product oriented innovation.
Remember – innovation is all about answering the questions: “What can I do to run this business better? What can I do to grow this business? And what can I do to transform the business!”