Most large companies are now taking innovation seriously.

They’re implementing labs, training, and programs. They’re creating dedicated innovation functions. There’s more talk —and action— around fostering intrapreneurship and creating an innovation culture across organizations.

But that doesn’t mean our lives as corporate innovators are getting easier. The pace of change is high. The pressure for results is on. And you’re operating without a playbook.

While the potential results are worth it, it can be pretty lonely out there on the edge. You’re working hard to spread excitement, get people engaged, and garner support; while some folks do support your agenda, it would be nice if more people just ‘got it’.

To support you on your journey, we asked you about your most important questions in fall 2017, and had some of the world’s best and brightest experts answer them in a virtual summit, summarized in The Innovator’s Handbook 2018.

One month has passed in 2018 already, and we wanted to check in where you stand. Below you’ll find some practical nuggets you could have implemented right away.

If you did that, what came out of it? If you did not yet take action, here’s your list for getting started. Ready?

Select Class A Intrapreneurs – Gifford Pinchot

Intrapreneurship needs to be more about doing than about coming up with ideas, said Gifford Pinchot. Too many intrapreneurship programs focus on idea selection and business planning. These are glorified suggestion programs, not intrapreneurship. Real intrapreneurship helps intrapreneurs get through the challenges of turning their ideas into profitable realities.

He suggested you to refocus the company’s innovation strategy on selecting the right intrapreneurs instead of selecting for ideas. Eighty percent of the variation in success is due to the right people , not the quality of ideas.

Support Instead of Control – Nick de Mey

Nick told us a story of a client whose intrapreneurship team had great success with a direct, albeit unusual line to the top. Every two weeks, the CEO would meet the team at a nearby café for an informal standup meeting, sharing how their work was going and what the CEO could do to support their mission/objectives.

Contrast this with the more common formal presentation before the Board, where the team would nervously spend three or four days working up slides for their presentation instead of spending that precious time on the task at hand.

Make Innovation Everyone’s Opportunity – Ricardo dos Santos

Innovation shouldn’t be everyone’s job, said Ricardo, it shouldn’t be yet another criteria on performance reviews or abstract requirement on a job description. Yet innovation should be everyone’s opportunity.

One of the problems in terms of creating opportunities is that companies are still siloed off. To break through the siloes, people need to be connected by an “entrepreneurial fabric” that allows for a more distributed process in exploring, approving and financing new ideas. This, for example, may mean allocating smaller R&D “seed funds” within the company.

That way more people will regularly have conversations with somebody they know who is accessible, who has agency to get things moving and who might be better at recognizing the behaviour of internal innovators and leaders.

Involve HR To Engage The Best People – Jan Kennedy

When properly harnessed, HR can become a true catalyst for fundamental shifts in mindset and corporate culture.

To many, the idea of being pulled out of a job in order to risk failure has little appeal. By creating a clear, well-communicated framework around innovation career tracks and acceleration programs, HR allows people with a potentially disruptive idea to understand what they’re getting into: a structured program that encourages pivots, informative failures, open-minded communication and around-the-bend ideas.

Focus on Intrinsic Rewards – Andy Cars

Successful intrapreneurship relies less on extrinsic rewards, such as financial incentives, and more on carefully designed intrinsic rewards that give people a sense of purpose and meaning.

Build an incentive structure around intrinsic rewards. Andy suggested the framework developed by Daniel Pink that focuses on autonomy, mastery and purpose.

  • Keep motivation high by giving teams trust, control and ownership rather than micro-managing them.
  • Allow teams to build their capabilities, knowledge and understanding of how to work with innovation and how to be data-driven.
  • Implement tools, methods and processes to manage and measure innovation.

View Innovation As The End Result – Cris Beswick

People often ask about the difference between change management and innovation: Is innovation just the latest in a long line of change management methodologies? For Cris, change implies a stop from one thing to another, but in today’s world, organizations are in continuous transition.

Instead of seeing change as a series of stepping stones where you wait between steps, prepare your organization for fluid, continuous transition. Rather than thinking of innovation as something that needs to be found or acquired, organizations can reap greater benefits when they view innovation as the end result, an outcome amongst others.

Manage All Three Playing Fields – Frank Mattes

Frank’s work with leading global companies led him to discover the necessity of a middle ground between exploitative and explorative innovation. It involves adapting the core business to new realities, while scaling validated concepts from explorative innovation to generate business impact.

Companies that can simultaneously manage the three Playing Fields are able to successfully increase their business impact from innovation. Each Playing field has its own operating model:

  • Playing Field 1: Short-term, predictable, incremental innovation
  • Playing Field 2 (the middle ground): Scaling up validated concepts from Playing Field 3 and extending core businesses to adjacencies
  • Playing Field 3: Long-term, explorative innovation (agile, iterative, design thinking / lean start-up-driven)

Creating a harmonious and effective connection between Playing Fields 1 and 3 is challenging but essential to the success of an innovation strategy.

Think of the C-Suite as Your Customers – Brant Cooper

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.

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

“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.