Leadership Support: How To Get and Keep it

Expert: Brant CooperCurator: Paul Hobcraft

CEO of Moves the Needle and author of the New York Times best seller The Lean Entrepreneur. He also serves as an advisor to entrepreneurs, accelerators and corporate innovation teams.

01 // Leadership makes or breaks innovation- how should we ensure the leadership stays engaged?

02 // How to maintain leadership support also if budgets are cut?

03 // What about CFO support?

// Summary

We’ve all seen it: a group inside a large, established enterprises embarks on a journey to “innovate.” But what does that mean?

Why is it necessary for the company to innovate? What are they trying to accomplish? Leadership, believing they have issued a clarion call for new action, sit waiting for deliverables, struggling to understand how this new team contributes to the bottom line.

For innovation teams, the solution involves acting like startup entrepreneurs. They must tap into what motivates the C-suite and provide evidence that a project aligns with leadership’s objectives, just as a startup does with customers and investors.

In conversation with curator Paul Hobcraft, Brant Cooper unpacks useful tools, tips and strategies for innovators who are looking to engage leadership support and demonstrate the short and long-term value of their new way of working.

Align on innovation

Leadership may think of innovation as a way to meet financial targets, while innovators see it as a process of coming up with new markets. Both definitions are correct, though they may have different outcomes. It’s critical that leaders and innovators align around a shared definition of innovation and its objectives.

Engage leadership with empathy

To empathize with leadership, think of the C-suite as your customers. Take time to understand what’s driving them, their aspirations and the problems they are trying to solve. What kind of metrics are relevant to the C-suite? How can you raise your visibility? How can you tie project reporting to their objectives?

Innovate where you find uncertainty

As an intrapreneur, your role is to apply lean startup principles where you find uncertainty in your organization. Address uncertainty by empathizing with leadership’s pain points, experimenting to test ideas and providing quantitative and qualitative data to decide on your next steps.

Involve leadership in your process

“Training up” is one of the most effective ways to help the C-suite understand the work you are doing. Invite senior leaders to engage with your team at your level and involve them in your process. Share stories, artifacts and examples of the work you’re doing. Before you know it, senior leaders will start speaking your language. Just like anyone, they want to be part of the next new thing.

Reframe innovation as growth

Frame innovation in terms that help your CFO understand why she should continue to fund your work. Speak in terms of growth: acknowledge that, while your CFO is struggling today to meet quarterly targets, your work will open new markets and ensure the CFO isn’t in the same situation three years from now.

“They don’t know that they already have grassroots people who are thinking this way. The entrepreneurial spirit already exists inside the organization.”

Three E’s of innovation:
Empathy: Have empathy for your customers/leaders.
Experiments: Conduct experiments to validate ideas.
Evidence: Gather and provide evidence of success.

Five principles of lean innovation:
Understand customers deeply
Design solutions based on customer needs
Hypothesize the value stream across entire business model
Experiment to validate or invalidate riskiest assumptions
Fail small so you don’t fail big
Establish value creation in narrowly defined markets before scaling
Work in agile sprints with consistent customer input

Two questions that break innovation:
What’s my return on investment?
When am I going to see it?