what if innovation blog 3 ways to start an innovation movement

3 Ways to Start an Innovation Movement

By Neil Henderson
Look past the glory of almost any big business innovation story and you’ll find that its success has less to do with an actual idea and more to do with the movement created around the idea

Movements are fueled by the momentum they create (ice bucket challenge, anyone?). In the business world, momentum can be the difference between an idea living and an idea dying.

In our 24 years of working in innovation, we’ve helped dozens of Fortune 500 leaders create powerful innovation movements. So whether you’re at the start of your innovation journey, or need to push it over the line, here are three ways to build the momentum you need to create you own innovation movement.

1. Create a bold rally cry.

Your challenge needs to strike a chord in the hearts of your people. My advice for doing this? Rip up your mission statement and speak a language that your people can connect with.

When you’re creating your rally cry, think about removing the business jargon.

We often hear lofty and detached challenge statements designed for shareholder ears, but which mean nothing to those fighting to make it happen. What would you rather get behind: “Increase our global market penetration in ABC1 males ” or “GLOBAL STAR: Make our male grooming products a star player, so that every man in the world wants us on his team.”

The key is to find something that works for your company culture and the challenge you’re working on. But whatever it is, just make sure that it lights a fire in peoples’ bellies.

2. Pull people in the same direction.

Creating a bold rally cry is only half the battle and arguably, igniting a sense of passion in your people may not be your problem; it’s how you channel that passion productively.

In the heat of an ideas session, keeping people aligned with the rally cry is vital. At ?What If!, we have a creative behavior called “Signalling” that helps with this. “Signalling” is a technique that allows you to tell people how you want them think or behave in a meeting.

One of our partners uses “Signalling” to great effect to focus the energy in a meeting. She insists on a of structure of “Creative or Critique” that says, “30 minutes will be for creative and expansive idea generation and a separate 30 minutes will be for critiquing said ideas against our rally cry.” This creates team momentum by ensuring her team members are pulling in the same direction, at the same time.

3. Capture and share stories early and often.

Stories are a valuable currency in creating an innovation movement because nothing travels faster than news on the corporate grapevine. How your project capitalizes on this becomes the latest “have you heard about…” story can be a powerful way to create momentum.

An inspiring way to do this is through an “Iconic Action.” A great example of was a financial services partner of ours who was innovating on ways to make their culture more collaborative. They relocated their executive team from the top floor of the building, to desks amongst the project teams who were spread across all floors. This was certainly a talking point.

So, for your next innovation project, it’s worth considering that the biggest threat to your next big idea is not negative thinking or lack of ambition, it’s a lack of momentum. And there’s no better way to ignite momentum than to create an innovation movement.


If you’d like to know more about how to create an innovation movement in your business, drop us a line!

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