Friday, April 22, 2011

Great Innovators are often successful - Data Drivers

After spending a ton of time talking about failure when it comes to innovation, I love that we get to switch to the other side of the playing field.  We have discussed what keeps innovators from succeeding, but what makes them successful?

The next four posts delve into the four mega factors (what I believe anyway) that help innovators succeed.  The first is what I call data drivers.  I was once told by a friend that all people make decisions in three ways.  They either use data, experience or their gut.  As someone who likes rules of thumb, this was an interesting way to put it.  If this is true, than someone who gets their proverbial data thoughts together should be able to show people the value of an idea that might seem foreign to someone's day to day activities.  With the right data most people can be influenced even if they like to use either their gut or their experience. I learned to embrace the old saying from my time as a scientist...there is no bad data only data. 

They have leveraged corporate culture:  The first data driver while seemingly a bit soft is an innovator's ability to leverage the corporate culture.  Whether you are within or outside the organization who is the client for you new idea or concept, if you can understand what makes the collective tick (a very critical piece of change agent data) you stand a chance to influence them successfully.  Why?  Because culture is what people cling to most of the time as a means of saying no.  As someone who has managed alliances for over 15 years, you get to walk around the cultural block until you are exhausted.  With this experience managing partnerships, one will gain the ability if they choose to become a cultural chameleon.  When you can recognize the culture, the lingo, the process and the personalities of the collective, fitting between its cracks becomes possible.  Think about it...Have you ever known someone in your company who isn't particularly competent but has risen high because they are "political"?  This is someone who knows who to talk to, what to say and when to say it.  They leverage the corporate culture to achieve a level of success.  Doesn't this analogy contain the nuance you need to go from stubborn evangelist to sly change agent?  Think about the do's and don't of a culture and if you focus on how your idea fits the do's or your method for getting to yes makes senes to "how we do things" your odds of success go up a ton.  Even if your idea is something that is pun intended.

They have made big issues small:  Getting ahead of issues takes patience.  When making the different tangible, you must stop and think about why people would say no.  If you get ahead of this you can think through why this issues are really pretty tiny.  This takes preparation and thus data to get ahead of a big issue and solve it before you launch the innovation.  The reason this data driver is so critical is that most innovators don't like to think about the risks.  One of my bosses a long time told me that I needed to think about why things go wrong more.  He shared with me that I was great at crafting the idea, thinking through why is was a good idea, but that I didn't spend enough time thinking through why we shouldn't do it (another principle that will come up in a bit).  He said if I did that, I could be more prepared for the naysayers out there.  Whatever could kill it, get ahead of it and then kill that problem with data and you can stop them dead in their tracks before they try to stop you!

They have strong standards:  When negotiating a deal, one of the key steps is to come with a standard of legitimacy.  This means are there other precedents for why your proposal has been tried before successfully.  These standards are often loose connections to the proposal, but they do make a case for validity.  After loving this whole concept in every negotiation I have accomplished, I let it make the jump to my innovation process.  If negotiation is one of the four critical skills of an innovators (my earlier post) then the principles of the process should scale.  This is a key part of idea/innovation development...think of a standard that works for the situation you are in.  Can you connect it and better yet can you think of one that relates to something the person you are influencing actually did?  If you present them with a standard that would make them a hypocrite wouldn't that seem to help you make the case?  Standards give history and history is a means of how people make decisions...leverage their need for history well and you will make it happen faster.

They have a clearly articulated plan:  They say the devil is in the details, sadly that is true (especially when you are conceptual thinker like me).  Get a clearly articulated plan together by being succinct and clear. Simple, true and the hallmark of making it easier for them to follow the logic of an idea that may be way out there. 

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