Involving Your C-Suite in the Innovation Process

 

In a recent survey about innovation practices, leaders and senior managers from more than 500 middle market companies agreed that buy-in and support from all corners of the organization is one of the hallmarks of a successful innovation process. And it makes sense. To accomplish the feat of bringing new ideas, products, and services to market, you need committed people working together toward common goals.

Some of these people—according to the numbers—should be your organization’s top leaders, especially your Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), and Chief Information Officer (CIO). These leaders offer perspectives and insights about financing, customers, and technologies that can help make your next big idea a success.

It’s about more than the money.

According to the survey, across middle market firms, the CEO has the biggest say when it comes to selecting which innovative ideas to fund. Furthermore, senior managers are considered the most effective group for determining where to spend the firms’ innovation investment dollars.

But in companies whose innovation performance and growth are superior, upper management is more actively involved in all phases of the innovation process, and not just writing the checks. Specifically, top leaders regularly weigh in on initial idea generation and the idea implementation process in addition to selecting ideas to fund. The most innovative middle market firms are significantly more likely to include the CFO, CMO, CIO, and Chief Research and Development Officer (CRDO) in these various phases of the innovation process.

Perspective that pays.

Presumably, the firm’s top financial, marketing, and technology leaders have the best angle on what the business can afford to spend, what its customers want, and what technology can accomplish. So having them involved throughout the entire innovation process, including coming up with the initial ideas, can help keep projects focused and on track.

Furthermore, these leaders likely have the pulse on the company’s overall vision of the future. It follows that their contributions to ideation and their perspectives on implementation strategies can help keep innovation initiatives in line with overall business strategy, and may ultimately lead to greater chances of project success and a healthier ROI.

Make sure they have a place at the table.

Your firm likely already involves the C-suite in innovation to some degree, especially when it comes time to approve projects and funding. And if you’re like most middle market companies, you likely have a team of innovators that are very good at generating and implementing ideas.

By all means, continue to tap your internal resources. But also consider how you can involve senior executives in a structured way early in the innovation process, as well as engaging their support when it comes to implementation. Their perspective may improve your innovation efforts and lead to greater overall success for the entire company to enjoy.


To learn more about C-suite involvement and other habits of top middle market innovators, see the Center’s full research report, Organizing for Innovation in the Middle Market.


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