We are facing massive uncertainty, especially at times like these.

We, as innovators, can and should lead our organizations forward. To do so, Brant Cooper, CEO at Moves The Needle, believes we need to leverage the five “E’s” of disruption poetry: Empathy, Experiments, Evidence, Execution and Ethics.

The trick here is that we need to stop thinking that the core business does not understand innovation. Rather, maybe we need to focus on why innovators do not get the core business. And ultimately, we need to learn how to balance execution and learning throughout the whole business.

A snippet from Brant Cooper's session during the Innov8rs Connect Unconference, June-September 2020. To watch the full session recording, join Innov8rs Community with a Content or Premium Pass.

Disruption Poetry

The innovation industry for a while has been selling a concept that we need to divide the organization into an execution side, and an exploration, a learning side. The pandemic is really driving home this feeling of disruption that we are having.

Even before the pandemic, there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the world. The world is moving incredibly fast, and disruption seems to be happening all around us. If we look at startups like Uber, Airbnb, or even going back a few years to Instagram or even a lot of what Amazon does. It is not about technology invention. It is really about how we provide this different type of experience and value to end-users, such that markets have changed.

If you think about it in that way, technology disruption tends to start in the core parts of the economy, driven by large technology and chemistry driven companies or major university programs. Therefore, if you were a technology company, what you needed to do was to invent, and you gave a significant amount of budget to R&D. Part of the problem today is that we are still using this same method of innovation, even though the real change is out on edge. The real change is out there with individuals – it is almost like having seven billion market segments.

Disrupting the Core

What the innovation team can teach the core business is how do they separate what is known from what is unknown. Specifically, where is the gap that they face? For example, pre-pandemic commercialization teams have faced the following situation. We know how we will hit our numbers this year, but we may be 5% short. We also do not know how we will close that 5% gap?

That is referred to as an uncertainty. To solve this, the teams need to use empathy, experiments, and evidence to close that 5% gap. Innovators already take these steps natively. The innovation teams just need to learn how to express it in a way that the core business gets what they are talking about.

What Keeps a Leader Up at Night?

In order to get leaders on board, we need to focus on what they’re worried about. A solution to their problem is what they are going to fund. Especially in these times, leaders aren’t worried about what their breakthrough innovation is going to be five years from now.

As innovators, we need to help the core business articulate where their unknowns are, and then we apply our skillset and toolset to close that gap, moving those “unknown” items to the “known” side.

During the pandemic, that can include very fundamental market questions and customer questions that seemed “known” six months ago, but are currently unknown. However, it also can be issues like: how do we manage remote people? This is an uncertainty that core business executives might have, and it’s our job to close that gap applying lean innovation, including empathy, experiments, and evidence.

This is a piece from The Innovator's Handbook 2021. If you're keen to dive into the best and latest on corporate innovation, request your copy here. To discuss anything Strategy, Leadership & Governance, join our upcoming Innov8rs Connect online event, 16-20 November.