What Is an Innovation Program Office?

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Today’s show is going to be a look behind the scenes around the time when I took over as CTO at HP.  This time is so important because it is the time that I came up with the concept “The Innovation Program Office.”  In today’s show we will talk about the pros and cons of the “IPO”, what are some of the things you need to think about regarding the “IPO”, and will it work for you?  The concept of “IPO” still applies today, and hopefully by the end of the show you will have your own insight of how it can apply to what you are trying to do in the organizations you serve.

Innovation Program Office

History

A lot of traditional teams set up to “do innovation” by creating an innovation team.  This makes the innovation team a target because people not on the team no longer saw innovation as part of their job.  What a lot of organizations experienced was that it was hard to scale. Scaling is the key factor because scaling limits impact.  Even with major significant support, no organization can grow a dedicated team large enough.  Innovation is not a team of people where you have an innovation program office, innovation is around a capability that an organization can and should have that is part of that core of how you do things.  New teams need to show innovation value right away with a near zero team members. Most likely you will have zero funding yet, you need to show an early win. How do new teams do this? By getting others to support them.

  • Let them get credit for the early wins.
  • Be viewed as a resource to help.
  • Let the group benefit (new product, revenue, marketplace credit, etc.).

If you are in the innovation game and it is all about you getting the credit, the odds of you being successful in this game are near zero if not zero.  

Role of the Innovation Program Office

The role takes on many forms but the role of the “IPO” is establishing the innovation framework, securing the funding, project selection and tracking, and training and supporting the teams as they innovate.  The first thing the “IPO” needs to establish is the framework that the broader organization will align around. You need to adapt the framework to the language of the organization.  Getting others to adapt it is a “change management” process. At HP the gradual roll-out to get the framework established takes over two years for 20,000 employees. Once you have the framework in place, you need to look at the metrics.  Understand how executive decisions are made and adapt metrics to it. Test your “alpha metrics” against yourself and against your peers.

  • Does it reveal something?
  • If you have the info int eh past, would you have made different decisions?

Your objective is to find metrics that are:

  • Predictive of future challenges and opportunities.
  • Give you enough foresight to change directions and have an impact.
  • Satisfies the “fear” response from execs.
  • Prove to management that innovation can be managed.

Key with funding in the “IPO” is to move it from underneath the normal budget process and control.  Once you have the metrics it is much easier to secure the funding. Start small, prove yourself, and grow the funding.  Look forwards to what you will do not what you have done in the past. Remember that you are competing for money that could be used in other ways.  Next is project selection and tracking:

  • Define the criteria for project selection.
  • We used ranking questions.
  • Create their own.
  • Re-evaluate the selections to improve how you identify the projects that will have the biggest impact.

Once you have everything in place: the framework, metrics, funding, project selection and tracking, you then need to role it out and scale it across the organization.

Impact and Pitch

In “IPO” it is about transforming the approach.  It is not about being the innovators but instead being the enablers of innovation.  

  • Keep the “IPO” small.
  • Avoid being viewed/perceived as competition to others in the organization.  
  • Not about the doing but the enabling.

For HP, “IPO” was never bigger than thirty-five people.

  • We provided funding that was outside the budgets.
  • Teams did not need to compete for money against items already generating money.
  • Off the radar from their management team.
  • Spread the money freely; show that you are willing to fund things that you may not see as being successful.
  • Do not appear biased to your own or your team’s ideas.

How do you convince leadership to create an “IPO”?  Identify the challenges the organization will face without an innovation capability.

  • Speed of change.
  • Changing customers.
  • Market expectations.
  • Competitors who are changing.
  • Draft and get alignment around the problem statement that the organization can rally around.

What do they want?

  • Understand everyone has a boss.
  • Everyone wants to look good to their boss.
  • How can you help them look good to their boss?
  • How can you model true partnership?
  • They want to be the hero.

What do you want?

  • To show what you can do.
  • Show success and impact.
  • Transform an organization.
  • You should not want to be the hero. You want to be the guide.

How do you structure it so everyone gets what they want?

  • Focus on the agreed problem statement.
  • Do not forget what they and you want.
  • Each decision you make ask yourself:
      • Does this help solve the problem statement?
      • Does this help them achieve what I want?
      • Does this help me achieve what I want?

The “IPO” is an important resource, whether you create it as a separate team or use support from outside resources.  

To learn how you can apply IPO to what you are trying to do in the organizations you serve, listen to this week's show: What Is an Innovation Program Office?.

Five Minutes to New Ideas

There’s an old saying that goes like this, “Speaking with passion but without the facts is like making a beautiful dive into an empty pool.” To convince or persuade others to believe in your idea, you have to base your idea on incontestable facts that can be readily grasped and understood. When it comes to innovation, you not only need to get people to support your idea, but also to fund it. On this week of Five Minutes to New Ideaswe will be discussing the importance of facts. What part of the story are you telling about your ideas based on absolute truth?
RELATED SHOW:   What is the biggest innovation challenge organizations face?
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