Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crossing your arms or reach out for a hug - the innovation partnership difference

What is the difference between speed in implementing innovation and never getting it off the ground?  Trust!  That being said, one of the key things to think about when you first encounter an innovative idea is this...

How do you first interact with the idea/concept/solution/product etc?

Do you question and doubt everything you hear until the potential partner proves to you the value they bring? Do you worry about if it is worth the risk?  Do you actually sit there with your arms folded across your chest?

Or do you bring trust and accept what you hear at face value first and then over time determine the positives and negatives of what you have just heard? 

I believe the majority of folks cross their arms rather than reach out and embrace what they hear and because of this attitude/behavior many great opportunities for individuals and companies to shine are lost.  You may say yes, but only about 10% of ideas are really worth launching.  Or you might say, hey that is off strategy for our business.  These things are all true, but resting on the obvious reason to say no only makes the point even more. 

Many of my greatest successes have come by bringing trust to my relationship from the moment I first meet someone.  This does not mean show every single card.  It means being clear (expectation management)about your interests and your company's interests, being honest about what you need to be successful in the partnership, and being forthright about the cultural challenges you may see or have with the path to success.  In my earlier post being the benevolent virus, I talk about this as the first phase of building an innovation partnership.

While I have many examples of this, my current role at NetBase started in this way.  In 2006, when I first came across NetBase's fantastic technology rather than question the value of their solution, I saw potential and shared it very openly with my partners.  I told them very clearly what it would take to succeed and never deviated from the things I promised to them.  This included sharing how Clorox's culture took time to try new things, it involved being open about the amount the company was willing to spend on a pilot for a new idea, and most importantly it involved getting very open with them about the folks they met during the journey (essentially exposing them to the strengths and flaws of those who were involved).  This building of trust enabled us to figure out a creative way to do our first project together and ultimately led to a financial relationship that lasted over 2 years after I left Clorox and was no longer there to champion the effort.  And the financial result?  Over seven figures in sales in total over a 5 year period.

This all started because I was willing to take a risk in how I approached people I didn't know well as well as how I treated an idea that I believe had potential

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