A senior member of staff wants to go further with the innovation initiative. How can we help her without risking a communications breakdown further up the food chain?

We drove back to the office with the top down, savoring the warm breezes. I gave Matt a brief synopsis on my conversation with Johansen.

“She thinks innovation is very important, and I think she also sees opportunity for her own advancement as well. If she were higher up in the food chain, I’d be excited about the call, but since she clearly isn’t the decision maker, I’m not sure how to use the information.”

Matt seemed to take it all in and pondered it for a while as we drove.

“The real decision maker there is Thompson” he said. “Phillips won’t be a barrier as long as we don’t distract or disrupt the Seven Schema investment. We need to demonstrate that innovation is bigger and more valuable than Seven Schema, but that it can also co-exist.

Matt’s words rang true. Clearly Briggs saw innovation as a way to increased employee engagement. Johansen was on board. If we could get Phillips behind the innovation effort, perhaps the three of them could join forces to convince Thompson to move ahead on a broad innovation program. We’d worked with several of our previous clients that had investments in Seven Schema to map out parallel activities – continuous change programs that resulted in Seven Schema implementations and larger disruptive programs that resulted in new products or services in an innovation program.

“Matt” I said “we need to introduce Phillips to our successful clients who have implemented innovation programs in conjunction with Seven Schema. I think that can make him more comfortable and an advocate for us.”

Matt nodded, but I could tell his mind was elsewhere. While I’d be chained to a desk this afternoon, Matt was scheduled to lead a scenario planning exercise with another client. I envied him that task, and marveled at the insight available to any firm that engaged a serious scenario planning task. We’d been working with the client team for the last six weeks, identifying and tracking technical and demographic trends and competitive products and offerings. Today Matt would start the team on an investigation of these trends and develop several alternative scenarios of the future, which in turn would identify new markets and new opportunities that we could pursue with our client. We both enjoyed leading these scenario workshops because of the energy and enthusiasm they created in the project teams. Too often the participants had been treated as worker drones, whose ideas and thoughts about the future were ignored or discounted, and whose focus was the limited to the next 90 days. Having the opportunity to identify and track trends and develop scenarios was like a breath of fresh air for many of the participants, and they usually took after it with glee. As a facilitator, we had merely to guide and harness the energy of the group, rather than force an uncertain team into new processes and risky procedures.

We arrived at the office. Matt checked his phone messages and prepared to leave.

“Call Beletine Technologies and ask if Phillips can speak with them” he suggested. Beletine was a recent success, having taking on our full consulting program. We’d created an innovation team and program, and made some dramatic changes in the corporate culture, especially where rewards and compensation for innovation were concerned. And we’d done all that in an organization with a significant investment in Seven Schema.

“You’re right” I said, picking up the phone to call our sponsor.

About the author:

Jeffrey PhillipsJeffrey Phillips is VP Marketing and a lead consultant for OVO Innovation. Jeffrey has led innovation projects for Fortune 5000 firms, academic institutions and not-for=profits based on OVO Innovation’s Innovate on Purpose™ methodology. The Innovate on Purpose methodology encourages organizations to consider innovation as a sustainable, repeatable business process, rather than a discrete project.

Jeffrey is the author of “Make Us More Innovative,” a book that encompasses much of the OVO Innovation methodology, and blogs about innovation at Innovate On Purpose. He is a sought after speaker and has presented to corporations, innovation oriented conferences, and at a number of universities. In 2010 he chaired the Innovate North Carolina conference and was a keynote speaker at Queen’s University, University of the Pacific, UNC and several other colleges and conferences. Jeffrey has an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and an undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of Virginia.