Why Coaching for Innovation?

As innovation becoming more demanding of leaders, organization now realize that technology alone wouldn’t be able to achieve their innovation goals. Leaders now found out that the people felt “left behind”, unwanted and confused. There’s so much animosity around innovation implementation as well as business or digital transformation towards that. 

It seems, the high tech innovation that we brag about all these years requires some human touch eh? Yes we do, if we want to make it work and integrating well for long term. One of the tools that you can use is coaching. 

Why do you need coaching in innovation?

Other than just the familiarity of the innovation tools such as design thinking, agile, scrum, lean, strategic thinking, business model canvas, blue ocean and many others; there’s a deeper hurdle left ignored. Hurdle to make change; and change is always difficult, emotional and constant. 

Leaders with foresight know, that coaching will help them change from “me” perspective to “we”. Say, in an ideation lab, the leader’s ideas opposed, he will still feel comfortable. In fact a well coached leader would welcome opposition because it will enrich the discussion. Besides, it empowers the team. Not about me, it is we.

In another situation, when an idea is risky, poor leaders will not support. A confidently coached leader, besides the mantra “doing it right from the first time”, he’d put his neck on the choppin’ to experiment a wild idea although it might fail. His new mantra is “you either make it or learn”. The word failure now taken a back seat or eliminated. 

The speed of activities is another hurdle in implementing big scale innovation. There are so many things to do. Right from the augmented customer experience, digital touch points, integration of big data, interpreting analytics, artificial intelligence bots, blockchain in smart contract, mobile first solutions to drones operation. 

How just a leader with all these new stuffs lead? Can you imagine a senior vice president at the age of 55 going to chew while keeping his sanity? It will be too much and he might be too occupied delivering his strategic function – which is more valuable due to his/her knowledge. This is another area where coaching could help. 

A coachable senior leaders would gain through giving trust early in the relationship particularly with their direct reports. How many senior leaders do you see still unable to let go certain operational meetings because it “seems” all important to them? In times of innovation like now, decision making has to be fast and getting immediate feedback should be faster. It is also should be expected, the direct reports would make some mistakes along the way as part of their learning curve. Fail early, fail often. 

In some organizations, they are still stuck at the “over analysis becomes paralysis” situation. After round and rounds of meetings, no one seem to be willing to call the shot. Because innovation about venturing to uncharted waters, a coached leader will demonstrate higher tolerance for ambiguities and can live with “just enough” information to make a next step decision. With tools such as 2×2 quadrant or A/B testing or BMC, these well informed leaders will advance further; the rest still in another meeting.

To be an innovative leaders, coaching could help to unlearn and minimize biases of past experiences. Where the culture could be dry, brazen and unwelcoming, these coached leaders turn them around so ideas thrived, people become responsive again and businesses nourished. The best innovations in the world only flourished when a corporate culture supports and drives them forward. 

Because of the change component that comes together with innovation, there’ll be always tension of opinions, resources squabble and constant realignments. Besides, strategy is not just another management retreat or document. A strategic innovation leaders know, there’s a need to discuss qualitative data, customer pain points, challenge assumptions and question “facts” at hand; although it may not be related to his own department. Furthermore, a coached innovation leader will not stop there. He will ensure the organization have taken serious and structured considerations including influencing the board of directors to discuss innovation as the top agenda in the board meeting. 

By coaching for innovation, leaders role is reimagined to be more assertive, substantive and collaborative to make the organization future ready. Leaders, you can still keep your pride, but please don’t lose your shirt. Go coaching!

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Part 1: Starting Corporate Innovation Program

I am writing this in TWO main parts:

  1. PART 1: RECHARGE with 2 phases:
    1. First Wave: Rebuild Engagements
    2. Second Wave: Rethink Business Strategies
  2. PART 2: REWARD with 2 phases:
    1. First Wave: Reimagine Products & Services
    2. Second Wave: Relaunch Success

PART 1: RECHARGE

Purpose of Recharge is to enable the organization to be aware and find some clarity there’s something new coming for them. They need to contribute, be part of and develop this new initiatives together. In other words, their participation is crucial. Often in some discussion from my experiences, I found some of this innovation is only circumvented from a particular department or division. What makes matter worse if innovation is deemed “IT – information technology” department.

The top management should get consented from the Board for strategic innovation initiatives such as Corporate Innovation. The Board should support this and getting them early is going to make your job easier later on. Hiding behind buying tech gadgets and solutions will only make things difficult not too far ahead. Best to come clean with strong and strategic proposals.

First Wave: Rebuild Engagements

  1. Find a department / division that’s willing to engage the people across the organization – collaboration is paramount. Naturally, the HR is positioned to do so, however I have seen in many organizations, the HR tend to be operational-ONLY. They are not interested with people development beyond the usual training, training and training. If this is the case of your HR Head, you will have a lot problems in doing something disruptive and different. Visionary HR head knows they will reap the rewards very soon when they support and open up the floodgate of ideas from the workforce.
  2. Some HODs/HODivs from IT or Corporate Strategy or CEOs office, could be useful in driving Corporate Innovation. Keyword to look for is someone that is “willing to engage across the organization”. I have seen IT heads doing this. Word of caution, some IT heads are too technical and prefer to do remotely – avoid this too. We could help you find out as well using our assessment method – in case you are asking.
  3. Run a 1-2 months “Ideation / Ideathon / Ideanation / Hackathon / Idea Tournament” program – where you collect ideas across the company. You can either open in up to “any ideas” or you can zoom in to few areas such as “People, Process, Product, Services, Technology etc..”. Avoid too much complicated jargon, key is to get as much participation as possible and the soonest possible.
  4. You can ask the workforce to send ideas via email, google form, whatsapp, ideabox or idea management platform (we got this covered).
  5. Ideas start pouring in and you will need to sort them. Here is where you need cross departments committee to help sorting. Again, find people that are willing during this first round. With idea management platform, you will find this sorted in matter of hours instead of days!
  6. Once ideas are sorted, you can rank those ideas and select top 30 ideas (for example) to go to deep dive innovation skills program or innovation lab and tap into all the interesting ideas.
  7. Make sure you give recognition to everyone (yes everyone) that contributed to the ideas pool. Not that difficult to do, automate a simple certification or organize a get together ideators with the top bosses.
  8. Your innovation lab could be a 3-5 days immersive design thinking workshop with emphasis on building empathy, business models and users jobs to be done.
  9. Forget about the technology or ROI or bottomlines or profit rates or cost of developing for now. Let the ideas bloom and let them pitch it as it is.
  10. Evaluate all ideas in a simple pitching competition, let the ideators find their own team members internally to grow those ideas. The management team could become the ideas judge or evaluator to get a sneak peek of what’s available from their workforce. Go there with an open mind.

Ok, now you completed the Part 1: Recharge: First Phase (Rebuild Engagements). Reach out to me for clarification. Meanwhile, I’ll be writing the Part 1 Second Wave: Rethink Business Strategies.

Brickbats please email to donkhairul@gmail.com

Reasons Why You Should Start Corporate Innovation Program

You probably have heard about Innovation and you want to do something about it for your organization. It is like a puzzle that needs solving, but the think is which one you should start first? Here could be the reasons compiled why you want a piece of the action on Innovation:

  1. There are so many new technology arounds but you have no clue how to take advantage of all these for your organization eg Industry Revolution, 4IR, Digital etc..What’s all these tech stuffs?
  2. Around 40% or more of your workforce are 40 years old and below. This is consider fairly young workforce. Most organizations in Malaysia for example has around 50-70% workforce of 40 years old and below. How to tap this huge energy reserves?
  3. There’s so much ideas being presented to you and your management teams, but it is who is looking after them? What is the outcomes or results? Why there seems to be nothing implemented? Who is doing the monitoring?
  4. You and your management team would like to find out new opportunities for business growth. Maybe there’s something?
  5. The internal processes seem overwhelmed with tapes after tapes and you wanted it change for so long, but why the problem still persisted?
  6. People morale is getting lower by the day with all other concerns about the economy, jobs security and personal finances. How to rejuvenate and recharge?
  7. You have some budget (approved by the Board) to work on innovation programs, where to start? (Innovation program budget starts from $50k-$100k)
  8. The training done by the human resource seems to have very little impact because they said the organizational change should be addressed at the same time.
  9. Your management team (kitchen cabinet) is becoming more picky, testy and struggle to communicate cohesively and you don’t know who is the dark horse anymore. Put your foot down?
  10. The entire workforce especially the operations, middle managers and customers facing staffs said, “Our customers complaints has increased and they have switched to our competitors.” Shall you wait any longer?

The above listings are popular reasons I personally have observed and listened during my engagements with our clients. What’s yours? I’d love to compile several more to provide greater awareness that innovation program is a strategic decision.

Check out my next 2 parts article “How Start a Corporate Innovation Program?”

Brickbats please email to donkhairul@gmail.com