Five ploys to convince your boss to become more innovative

Daniel Hofmann

Every big firm has a lot of innovation potential but most of them are only using a small fraction of it. Many are claiming that the missing ideas and idea management processes are to blame, when instead, the main share of the blame lies in the missing courage of executives.

Mark Zuckerberg’s “the biggest risk is not taking any risk” gets to the heart of the problem. The world is (digitally) transforming and the old rules of industrialization are no longer applicable. Well planned and elaborated process optimizations can’t protect the market shares and monopolies of corporations from disruptive and user centered startups anymore. No risk, no chance! A cruel reality, especially for the German, risk-averse industry.

We encounter this phenomenon in our work as trend scouts and innovation consultants on a daily basis. This is why we want to give the intrapreneurs and rule breakers out there five easy tips on how to point out ubiquitous threats and new opportunities to your superiors and therefore create a higher risk affinity.

1. Visit startups that are pushing into your market
Every market is affected by digitalization. Usually new, inconspicuous startups appear, taking over small market shares and at the same time attacking sections of the business model of established corporations. The vacation administration tool for example is competing with incumbent SAP and taking over their customers. These startups usually excel through user friendliness and velocity. Attributes, usually unknown for big firms and that should be pointed out to the executives on a regular basis.


2. Talk to former customers
Seeking and reappraising feedback is the first step to the Lean Startup method and should have the right to exist in every company. Do new competitors exist that we didn’t have on our radar yet? Was there actually no exchange and our service / product is simply not necessary or needed anymore. Present your superior the insights of your feedback loop on a regular basis. Sooner rather than later they will realize that there is a need for action.


3. Visit research projects of your universities
For one thing you can get a good feel for the direction technology is evolving into and what could present or create a threat in the near future, for another thing you can start or support university research projects yourself. Every large city usually has an event like “Long night of research”. The most important part is to make the insights transparent for your superiors and co-workers and to actively spread it. Who knows, maybe your superior will join you for the next event.


4. Bombard them with articles about new business models
Great ideas are usually not just dropping into someone’s lap. That’s not different for us innovation consultants. Most of the time our ideas are adaptations of the knowledge we acquired and the ideas of others we saw or heard about. Reading does not just educate, it also fosters creativity. So, just send your superiors and colleagues one or two additional articles. If they should be super busy you can also summarize the most important points and send them directly with the article. Thus, you always have a great starting point for your innovation projects or ideas: “Remember the summary of the TechCrunch article about augmented reality in the automotive industry I sent you two weeks ago? I gave it some thought and came up with the following idea…”.


5. Invite you customers
Prepare yourself as early as possible for the flaws and needs of the coming generation. By this time the digital natives are already deciding which washing machine to buy (yes, we are already that old!). Consequently, the next ones to come are the mobile natives, which are already hard enough for us to understand when they record voice messages with their mobiles and hang out in snapchat. Show these differences to your superiors as plainly as possible and indicate that these are the customers of the future. Best would be to understand them already today!