This episode: Program Manager
Once you have secured your sponsor, you will need a program manager to actually create and run the program. I’m assuming that’s you.
OK, I’m kidding. The fact is that while you may have the toughest role, keeping all of this moving forward, you also have the most rewarding. There is nothing like seeing the ideas submitted by your inventors being viewed and reviewed. There is nothing like the amazing engagement and excitement a program like this elicits among your employees. There is nothing like the thrill when you hear how someone’s idea was selected from so many others to become a real product or go into the patent pipeline. When you see your inventors, your employees, joining in and actually being excited and engaged with the future directions of your company. No longer are they simply pushing bits around, but are truly contributing to the future welfare of your company. It’s a great feeling.
Of course, on the flip side, there are many barriers to overcome, but your role is to manage everything that comes along, knock down those barriers, and keep moving forward. You will:
- Design the parameters of the program and get the executive sponsor
- Work with your internal marketing team to come up with a theme for the program which fits your culture. The positioning of the program is extremely important to its success. Some people feel that it’s all about the tool and the processes used to capture and process the ideas, but in reality, it’s more about the overall program than it is about the technology.
- Work with your HR people to position this as an employee motivation program in addition to an ideation program, as well an educational and training program. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, an innovation program, especially an enterprise-wide program, has an amazing ability to motivate even the most jaded workforce, assuming that it’s done properly (otherwise known as “following the principles in this book”)
- Work with your legal team to figure out the patent side of things. Depending on your company’s current stance on intellectual property (which we will cover more in chapter 6) you may be completely prepared to funnel patentable ideas
As the program manager, you are the key to making this whole thing work. No pressure! But seriously, there may be some days when you are ready to give up, some days when you feel like you are battling the entire company in order to move a few steps forward, some days when you truly wonder if people really mean what they say when they say “innovate or die”. Sometimes it will feel like the inverse, that the last thing your organization needs is to innovate.
We’ve all read the Innovator’s Dilemma, we understand that a company that does not innovate will eventually be overcome by competitive forces and die. We all understand (well, most of us do anyways) that innovation is not a force to be feared, but the next evolutionary step in your company’s future. Your innovation program is the womb which will birth new products, new services and eventually new companies to replace your own. If you can think of it that way, innovation and disruption is a natural way of life. We disrupted our parents and our children will disrupt us, and so on.
OK, I beat that metaphor up. Let’s move on to the rest of your team.