How to advance your career as a corporate innovator

It’s not easy being a corporate innovator. You’re often under-resourced and not fully understood or supported by the rest of the organization. So it’s difficult to make progress both in terms of driving innovation and building your career.

1. Try to better understand your senior leaders

Speak to your senior leaders and put yourself in their shoes. Try to deeply understand what their constraints and anxieties are.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. – Steven Covey (Author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

Once you understand your leaders better, you’ll be more likely to demonstrate the benefits of innovation in a way that resonates with them. If you get them on board early, it’s going to make your life a lot easier later on.

The customer profile is one tool you might find useful for visualizing your findings. Use it to help you map out the jobs, pains and gains of your senior leaders.

The customer profile isn’t something you need to get ‘right’ immediately. You can come back to it and update it over time as you learn more about your senior leaders.

2. Demonstrate how innovation can help them

You need to find ways to show senior leaders that supporting innovation efforts will help them achieve their own goals.

Don’t try to argue with them about what you should be doing as a company. That never works. Instead, show how adopting a culture of innovation can help them achieve their vision for the company. – Alex Osterwalder

Once you understand your leader’s constraints and how to help them navigate them, you’ll become indispensable and ultimately make huge leaps forward in your own career.

The value map is a great way to help you identify how innovation will help your leaders achieve their goals.

your gain creators are:

  • innovation metrics (clear ways to measure the success of your innovation efforts)
  • success stories (celebrating wins inside your organization)
  • having a scalable innovation methodology (hopefully using Strategyzer’s tools and platform)

These things are what will help your CEO achieve their goal of having a new $1b business model.

The pain relievers are:

  • having an ambidextrous org chart
  • helping your CEO understand the importance of having both explore and exploit portfolios

These will help your CEO overcome the challenges of having to meet quarterly earnings targets and also new business models over the long term.

  • setting up metered funding for innovation projects (projects get more funding as they generate more evidence and projects that don’t find evidence are killed)

This will help your CEO understand how you can maximize your investment in innovation and minimize waste.

You don’t need to show the Value Proposition Canvas to your CEO. But it will help you understand their situation a lot better. Even if it’s not 100% accurate, the process of putting yourself in their shoes is inherently useful. You can improve the Value Proposition Canvas over time.

Canvases and slide decks are useful for consolidating and visualizing your insights but the ultimate way to show that innovation has value is to get some tangible results for your company.

Leadership is more easily influenced if the stories we tell are less abstract i.e. real successes that have happened in the company. – Tendayi Viki