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6 ways to build a successful innovation program

The practice of innovation has come a long way, and for good reason.

Regardless of size or sector, every organization today faces existential threats from changing customer expectations and a booming technology industry. In one significant example, KPMG predicts that within 25 years, the $200 billion US auto insurance industry could shrink to less than 40% of its current size due to the advent of self-driving cars.

In response, even the largest, most established firms have prioritized creating a culture of innovation in order to thrive in the coming decades. “Disrupt, or be disrupted” is the mantra. But how exactly do you do that?

With over six million users in the Fortune Global 500 from companies as diverse as AT&T, Citibank, Johnson & Johnson and Southern Company, Spigit is the world's largest provider of innovation management solutions. Having worked with the top innovation leaders across all major industry verticals, from banking and manufacturing to healthcare and energy, we've identified a few crucial factors and patterns that lead to effective innovation programs. Drawing data from Spigit's customer base as well as third-party research, here are six tangible steps every business can take to create a successful innovation culture.

Tip #1

Don't produce innovation, enable it

The overwhelming majority of Spigit customers consider creating a culture of innovation a primary goal of their innovation programs. But when innovation is made mission-critical, it's more than just an end: it becomes the means to achieving a wide variety of additional business priorities.

So how do you make it mission-critical? Involve executive sponsors from the get-go and throughout the process. The same Spigit Crowdsourced Innovation study revealed that innovation programs sponsored by executives tend to be more successful, stronger, and longer-lasting. That's because the CEO and other senior leaders have very specific business goals. Convince them that crowdsourced innovation isn't a distraction but, on the contrary, an essential capability for enterprises to execute on their other goals.

When involved in innovation, those same sponsors will insist on routinely seeing results of innovation programs, and they'll be able to provide helpful feedback for refinements to better drive business results. Instead of stopping at just one, seek multiple sponsors involvement from various business units - from IT to sales - as this will help align silos while also bolstering the culture of innovation.

93% of Spigit customers say creating a culture of innovation is a priority.

“If somebody's going to disrupt our industry, it might as well be us.”

John Geyer
Senior Vice President of MetLife's Innovation Program, in a New World of Opportunity: The Insurance Innovation Imperative (KPMG)
Tip #2

Don't produce innovation, enable it

If innovation is the responsibility of just one department or functional area inside a company, that's not a culture of innovation. That's an R&D department. In order to make innovation scalable across the organization, sustainable in the long-term, and impactful in regard to far-reaching business goals, sponsors must move beyond “producing” innovation to “enabling” it.

Innovation isn't a box to check, like connecting everyone's phones or getting the digital infrastructure online. Rather, CIOs and other executive sponsors will best create a culture of innovation by submitting provocative questions to both their peers as well as the broader organization. From there, it's vital to measure engagement levels, quality, and the program ROI so that you can be more effective with your second, third, and fourth innovation initiatives, or ideation "challenges." As John Klick, Senior Manager of Worldwide Innovation at Pfizer, put it, “Instead of us as a team of eight transforming the organization, how do we seed the organization so that we have 77,000 colleagues thinking like entrepreneurs?”