Sunday, May 8, 2011

Innovation Rules of Thumb - Preparation - Know Thy Client

When you have a big idea...who do you turn to if you want see it come to life?  Within the corporate landscape, no innovator gets an idea done in a vacuum with no one's help.  You have to rely on others to help make it happen and in many cases your idea needs a client to make it happen.  This client can be an external customer, channel partner or internal stakeholder.  And no matter what you will probably need someone to become the "consumer" of your idea.

When you have targeted your client, what is your rationale for picking them?

One method would be to think first about your idea.  You might say to yourself, I love this idea and it is perfect for THIS client.  In this case, the fit will be mostly about matching idea with client regardless of who the client is, what your relationship is with them and usually how much revenue or success it can generate for you or your company.

I would consider this the traditional method of finding a client for your idea.  This to me is all about the business.  The greatest success is tied to the greatest revenue.  More money equals more success. And this is the most important metric in making innovation valuable.  Because we are all in this to make money right?  (Cue the sales guy dressed suavely in a tie laughing and slapping you on the back).

In fact, picking this method can give the biggest results, it can give the most pain.  Why?  Because people are self interested and when it comes to change they will only engage if it makes sense for them as we have previously discussed.  That is why the rule of thumb KNOW THY CLIENT is so critical to helping you succeed.  If you start down the wrong path at the beginning, how can you expect to make it to the end at all?   There are so many pitfalls to the change agent game, starting off by picking the right partner to make things go is probably one of the most critical things we do.

As an innovator coming up with ideas is like popping popcorn, you put some heat on it many kernals pop.  So rather that pick you biggest idea and match it to the right client, find the right client for the many ideas you might have.  Success as an innovator is a game of big leaps but getting to leap is a game of inches.   You can increase your odds of winning by always going to the right partner.  And this means taking the opposite approach for success.

So what is the rule of thumb KNOW THY CLIENT about?  Very simple...

If I have an awesome that is worth $1B and another one worth $100MM but the client for $1B is someone I can't trust, but the $100MM idea is for someone I have succeeded with many times, forget the $1B idea and go with $100MM idea.

This sounds kind of weird doesn't it?  Picking the less valuable idea over the bigger one.  But if you think about it a bit, it makes sense.  In both cases, you will be asking your company to take a risk and do something different, so it is most valuable to make it happen rather than lose out because of who you stakeholder is for the idea.  As an innovator, good partners are the most important thing to consider in making things happen and this starts with KNOWING THY CLIENT.  The politics of innovation isn't about the merit of ideas, but what the people who make them happen think about the merit of the ideas.  If companies don't innovate and people do, then choosing a good partner will more than likely help great things happen.

And what is most important to remember, KNOWING THY CLIENT is a personal thing.  You know your innovation style and a good client is someone who you jive with, trust, and connect with in how you like to make it happen.  Never be influenced by others.  Know your style and bring it to the party when picking your client to bring an idea.  Trust yourself.

Trust is the oil of innovation because it keeps friction down when working together.  Bring the oil if  you want to make great things happen....

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