When you launch an innovation initiative, you want everyone’s creativity but more importantly you want something to change. You may be hoping to tap into new opportunities by launching a disruptive business model or new product. Or you may want ideas to improve customer feedback or internal processes. This all takes action.

The best approach to take when launching innovation internally is to treat your employees as you would your customers. This first ‘sale’ of why they should care in their noisy, busy world, and why they should get involved and take action is best approached as if they were your customers.

Some businesses spend so much time and focus on getting customers onboard they can overlook getting their own people onboard.

When a company works to increase its customer base by attracting new customers or selling a new product to existing ones, the communication must highlight a relevant benefit to them or they won’t buy. Obvious. When you launch a new initiative internally in your organisation, you want your teams to buy-in but the benefit to them is often underdeveloped or under-articulated. ‘Because I said so’ works about as well as you’d think it would. Not at all.

At the very least, people need reasons. But we can do better than that. Our teams, just like our customers, need a benefit.

How will your change initiative help them? Your initial reaction may be that it doesn’t help them – it helps your customers (which keeps them all in a job). Fail. We don’t threaten customers to buy, and if we did, it wouldn’t work. Same goes for your employees.

You know yourself that if you haven’t been involved in a discussion or a series of meetings that it’s hard to buy into their conclusions. You know that anyone who isn’t part of developing something will have less affinity for it.

You know if you just want people to follow instructions then you’ll get that, but no more, and only if you audit and check regularly.

The three biggest reasons customers buy something are, it:

  • saves time
  • saves/makes money
  • provides enjoyment

These three reasons apply equally to your team.

How does launching your innovation program save them time, make them money or increase their enjoyment? You may have answers to some or all of these. There is some interesting research, for example, on incentivising innovation from Michael Gibbs of the University of Chicago. But as with many customer and consumer initiatives in these times, these three reasons alone are often not enough. People are in search of more.

People are shifting:

  • from cash to contribution
  • from compliance to creation
  • from commerce to community

Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform that ‘helps bring creative projects to life’ is an interesting example of modern people power and behaviour.

At the same time as being a customer for the product that is potentially funded and launched, ‘backers’ also sign up to those projects they believe are worthy of receiving funding. It’s all a bit of an act of faith as there are no guarantees the money will be used for the stated intention.

Trust needs to be high and it generally is. The benefit to the entity seeking funding is clearly the money but, more importantly, it is also the potential exposure ahead of launch, which can build a powerful community of backers who help spread the word.

Crowdfunding has a stronger sense of community, contribution and creation than merely exchanging a product for cash.

Your team wants to have some autonomy and freedom while belonging to something greater than just themselves too (community and contribution) and they want to be involved and own a part of the change process (contribution and creation).

Similarly, there are many new businesses being launched where the offering includes more than time, money and enjoyment benefits. Businesses that support an underdog, that recycle, that help the less fortunate, that donate time and money, that give segments of the community new voice, that close loops, and that look after the planet are thriving.

Here are some easy steps to follow to get the best from your teams on any innovation initiative:

  • Give them some specific reasons why you are launching innovation
  • Highlight the anticipated benefits of your innovation projects
  • Let them know how they can be involved
  • Giving them ownership means assigning some decision rights to the team
  • Fake ownership means decisions are still taken at the top of the hierarchy
  • Generate a sense of membership and community on your projects
  • As is the case with selling any product or service, less push and more pull works far better. How can your innovation agenda have less push and more pull?