Advising Leadership to Develop an Innovation Strategy
Schaffer’s advisory work centered on helping the CIO to conceptualize a comprehensive innovation strategy. This entailed facilitating work sessions to draft innovation objectives, determining innovation’s fit within the organization’s transformation journey, and identifying the key priorities, steps, and timing to achieve innovation outcomes. We then supported the CIO in developing a strategy socialization approach to generate the leadership buy-in necessary to move forward effectively. As our clients advanced from strategy development to implementation, we continued to host regular coaching conversations to gauge progress and determine opportunities to refine plans. Schaffer also played a strategic advisory role to Communications and HR leaders to help them determine ways of engaging team members around innovation efforts and to develop peoples’ innovation capabilities. In all cases, Schaffer’s coaching support enabled clients to sharpen their own thinking, develop pragmatic, results-oriented solutions, and navigate organizational complexity.
Building a Catalyst Network to Guide an Enterprise-Wide Effort
In parallel to our coaching efforts, Schaffer helped to identify and organize a group of innovation catalysts representing each business unit. These catalysts were credible leaders who could assist their business presidents to move the innovation needle. With our guidance, the catalysts created a common terminology for innovation, so that everyone referred to the same types of innovation (e.g. product, customer experience, and operational) and referenced the same stages (e.g. “ideation” and “rapid prototyping”). They also built an online innovation toolkit that employees could use to educate themselves about innovation, run innovation events, and translate ideas into commercial opportunities. Schaffer supported the catalysts to identify a number of innovation metrics (such as number of ideas being considered and amount of revenue from new products/services) to be incorporated into divisional operating reviews. This new way of evaluating performance encouraged business leaders to pay attention to the pipeline and commercialization cycle time of new ideas. By activating the innovation catalyst network, we empowered a group of influential leaders to drive the innovation agenda throughout the organization.
Helping Team Members Deliver Rapid-Cycle Innovation Results
The third element of Schaffer’s support focused on nurturing a number of high-impact opportunities to quickly unlock the innovation potential within the organization. We led the design of an innovation action summit, with representatives from every part of the business. The goal of the workshop was to identify, select, and accelerate ten specific revenue-generating innovations that leveraged existing assets – setting them up for implementation within 100 days. First, we helped an executive sponsor to articulate the innovation challenge to the entire organization. Then, the innovation catalysts and select subject matter experts culled down hundreds of submissions to land on the top 20 to be pitched at a face-to-face event. Attendees voted for the ten highest potential ideas for further development. Over the course of a three-day off-site, the Schaffer team collaborated with internal consultants and technology pros to help teams define a minimum viable product and plan for rapid validation and development. At the conclusion of the event, each team presented its proposed path forward for feedback and approval by the executive sponsor. After the strong start initiated at the workshop, all teams worked diligently through a three-month implementation sprint: pursuing their goals, meeting regularly for status reviews, capturing learning, and pivoting where necessary to take the innovation to a wider market.
The innovation catalysts’ success at the enterprise level inspired one divisional leader to replicate the approach within his own team. Schaffer collaborated with an innovation manager to develop a process and a supporting cadre of catalysts to increase the volume, value, and velocity of innovation ideas moving through to execution. We helped design the process to encourage wide staff engagement, customized the catalyst role to stimulate local ideation activity, and then trained and coached selected leaders to shepherd the process. During the 10-week division-wide idea dash that focused on innovations in operations and customer experience, about 800 separate ideas were submitted with some 20% picked up for execution. Most idea originators got prompt feedback within a matter of weeks, including a clear go/no go decision and a line of sight to implementation – a critical shift in making innovation transparent and rewarding for the staff who contributed.
Additionally, Schaffer worked closely with a high-potential innovator to win internal funding and accelerate the pace of development for a potentially transformative cross-divisional idea. Our greatest contribution to this effort was to support the design and facilitation of a full-day collaborative product development event. That experience brought 50 customers together on site to co-create a solution to their most pressing needs. Through a series of presentations, prototype demonstrations, and small group feedback discussions, our client was able to gain critical insights into product design and functionality preferences. He also sharpened his understanding of customer segmentation and how to prioritize initial sales efforts. Our client’s product is now in the market, contributing a valuable new revenue stream to the enterprise.