Ideas matter. But unless we activate them, they will never reach their full potential.

Activating innovative ideas – or making sure they actually “get to next” – means moving them across the finish line, making them happen. However, it’s much easier to have and pick innovative ideas than activate them. Only 6% of executives are satisfied with their innovation results, so we really need to do better. While there’s no single tool to use to activate innovative ideas, there are four critical principles that break down resistance to innovation, suggests Andrea Kates.

Andrea is a Silicon Valley-based Innovation expert and Director of the masterclass series Get To Next. She works with corporate teams to deliver on the innovation promise at corporate scale and helps business leaders embrace emerging trends, technologies, and new opportunities.

At a recent Innov8rs Connect event, Andrea shared how to bring innovation to its highest level of impact. Here's the full session recording, and a summary of those four critical principles.

1. Engagement: Breaking Down The Walls

Since we have learned to worship process efficiency above all else inside of companies, we had to cordon off our corporate innovation teams to generate ideas as a separate function, without the distraction of the groups responsible for execution.

The problem today is different. We have great techniques for generating big ideas. But idea generators have a hard time getting buy-in from the parts of the organization that ultimately need to build out the new lines of business. To activate ideas, we need to stop tossing them over the wall between "Innovation" and "Business" and in fact, start breaking down those very walls.

2. Broader Thinking: Building It Bigger

You need to be able to think about your product/service in a new way. For example, recently Moen, a company that usually sells sinks and shower heads, embraced innovation beyond their product lines to drive toward a higher purpose through an ESG initiative called Moen Eco-Performance. Clorox embraced ESG through a corporate initiative called Ignite to lead a sustainability ecosystem that transcended a bleach and cleaning fluid mindset. They moved beyond the faucet to address the global water shortage as part of their corporate priorities. These companies moved beyond a product/service mindset to execute large-scale collaborations that took on bigger societal issues and combined purpose and profit.

3. Logistics: Engaging A Fresh Ecosystem

When it comes to ecosystems, there are at least two things we need to do better: one is to stop talking to all the partners with the same pitch. Actually, there's a different commitment narrative for each person in your ecosystem and one single approach doesn't fit all when it comes to activation. And then, learn to think outside of traditional industry boundaries to build a “Maximum Value Ecosystem” for the future.

To initiate change that sticks, you have to build an ecosystem that multiplies your impact by applying two modes that frequently are left out of the innovation conversation: the logistics mode and the business model mode. Who’s in your current ecosystem? How might you expand your relationships to significantly expand your reach? How might an expanded ecosystem allow you to tackle broader societal issues – sustainability, globalization, aging societies, etc. – that are affecting your company? How do you engage a fresh ecosystem – new partners, new channels, new markets – to drive impact?

For instance, during the pandemic, Mayo Clinic – a large US hospital and healthcare system – realized that healthcare had shifted to the home. And so they partnered with Kaiser Permanente, another healthcare system and a competitor of theirs, and figured out a larger purpose together and brought the ecosystem toward that larger purpose. And this stopped the dynamic from being competitors and turned them into being inspiring leaders in a broader ecosystem.

4. Data: Taking One Bold Step

You can’t actually make new ideas happen if there’s no data and rigor to support your choices. Spreadsheets, analytics, technologies, platforms, and data will help you taking one bold step at a time.

In summary. Unless we get better at activation, innovation is at risk of becoming a science fair project. Take a critical look at your current approach, and start applying the four critical principles shared above to break down resistance to innovation.