Yesterday, an article appeared on Blogging Innovation by Roy Luebke titled “What to Tell the CEO About Innovation.” Roy goes on to posit what he would say to a CEO about innovation if given just a few moments of the CEO’s attention.
I suspect that Roy’s CEO will be taking a nap about 10 seconds into Roy’s monologue. Like a lot of innovation practitioners, Roy has not adequately considered how to deliver that initial innovation message to the CEO.
It strikes me as odd that this is such a common issue. After all, you wouldn’t dream of introducing a new innovation to the market without understanding the opportunity space. What is it that your customer actually wants and needs? How will they feel the impact of your innovation? Why will they choose your answer to their needs over other available options? How do you communicate the value of your solution to the client in a way that will resonate with them? Etc., etc., etc.
Yet time and time again, innovation champions forget that the CEO is an internal customer of innovation. In the same way that they need to understand the customers who will use innovations, they need to understand the internal customers of innovation. What’s important to the CEO? What business imperatives are top of mind? What are the corporate goals around attainment of revenue growth, market share, and profitability? What board directives does he need to satisfy? From where does the CEO perceive the greatest threats on the horizon to be coming? Which markets look like they are waxing or waning? Etc., etc., etc.
Roy’s message will fail because it is too ethereal and the CEO isn’t going to make a connection to it. Don’t squander your opportunity to make the innovation elevator pitch. Plan for it. Do you homework and understand what’s going to strike a chord with your CEO. Frame your pitch around the CEO’s agenda and make clear and compelling statements that make it evident that innovation is a vital part of the solution the company needs.
Even a pro-innovation CEO may not receive your message well if you fail to do this. After all, the planning and execution of an innovation initiative requires time and money—the two most scarce and valuable resources the CEO has to work with. You are competing for these resources, and it’s up to you to deliver the compelling value proposition that will allow the CEO to choose innovation over the other available strategies.