Innovation has never been the story of a lone hero, breaking through barriers by sheer grit and brilliance. In reality, it takes many different people to succeed.

But including everyone at the table is easier said than done. So how do you do it?

Milica Sundic, Innovation Manager at Deloitte Austria, takes us through the plan.


 

Milica Sundic, Deloitte
It might sound odd and counterintuitive.

To truly foster an innovative environment, it starts with structure. For most of us, it’s about both dismantling old structures that stand on tradition alone and creating dynamic new structures that allow for maximum inclusion without losing direction.

The next ingredient needed for innovation success? People. A lot of people. And a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds, ideally.

“Innovation is not a standardized process. That’s why it takes time to onboard employees and managers.  My job at Deloitte Austria is to support colleagues throughout the process of ideation and moving ideas from the first stage of an idea funnel towards marketable products and services.

But it’s also about creating a setting in which employees can be proactive and entrepreneurial on their own. Essentially, that’s all about building a community of innovative talents.

 

What do companies really look for when seeking new, innovative talent?

Milica suggests companies to seek people who are passionate.

“A strong passion for a topic or position will always make it easier to deal with challenges and adapt to change. Of course, it’s beneficial if you have basic understandings of IT and new technologies as they have become a part of our everyday life. Above all, diversity is important, as you can put different minds and expertise together and have differentiated ideas and solutions.

One of the essential questions has one of the simplest answers: what does it take to grow? Simply put: people. The right people.”

While the answer is straight-forward, there’s more to the question than one might think. Let’s break it down into three largely encompassing points:

Attract

Attracting the right people isn’t just a matter of brandishing the biggest fiscal club and waving it about the know innovation hotspots hoping to bludgeon talent into following you home. Nor is it always a matter of reputation and standing. Even the largest, most well-known companies – those economic powerhouses that have probably not heard the words “No thank you” in ages – don’t always come out of their search for innovative talent fully satisfied.

Why not? They can, after all, offer the most in terms of financial incentive – by a large margin, come to that. What else could an Intrapreneur be holding out for?

Considering the audience, the answer won’t be terribly shocking: the best and brightest want to join a culture that fosters innovation. And it has to be ready-made. You can’t expect to draw in real creativity without an environment in place and ready for them to hit the ground running.

One of the biggest problems in onboarding the right talent is expecting said talent to be able to function, perform, and deliver without the right structure and latitude to operate.

Reward

As touched upon above, the common business wisdom centers almost entirely around that old equation of Risk vs Reward, Profit vs Investment. There’s no arguing the veracity of this formula – on the market. But innovators are not ‘the market’. They’re people – often somewhat eccentric, creatively forward-focused, lateral thinkers. To approach the two as one in the same is a fundamental mistake. One that can insure stagnation like nothing else, in fact.

An innovator’s concept of reward – which of course, good compensation is part of – isn’t bound part-and-parcel to the carrot-and-stick approach.

Traditionally it’s long been understood that incentive equals production. Incentive does not, however, guarantee innovation. Research indicates quite the opposite actually.

Innovators need an environment geared toward creativity as much as more practical concerns. They need to know their thoughts will be valued, their ideas developed, and – perhaps most importantly – that their contributions will go toward creating a stronger community and more dynamic, forward-looking business.

Develop

Once you have your stellar innovators in-house and have created the environment best suited and custom-tailored toward their work, the answer toward their development is simple: as best as can be, within reason and stricture, let them grow. The plan must always account for innovators and intrapreneurs to foster creativity and change the company culture in a positive direction.

 

What makes the role as intrapreneur different or more difficult than “traditional” roles?

“There are many identifiers and I can’t put down all of them, so I’ll try to focus on three messages.

First, you have to think two steps ahead but actively take the first step, don’t wait. Second, innovation is challenging and not very plannable, so adapt and be resilient. Take risks and try to grow through each of your challenges.

Eventually, innovation cannot be done by a single person, so get supporters and stakeholders on board to support you from the first step on.

One of the issues that many of you face is that, as innovators, you’re expected to deliver significant market penetration in your field. This can be daunting, as by definition this field and focus is ever-evolving – there are few carved-in-stone procedures guaranteed to produce the results expected of you.

Especially considering that while innovators and intrapreneurs share a great deal, the diversity truly becomes apparent when discovering the markets they tackle – ranging the broadest spectrum and covering everything from tech to leadership development.

For intrapreneurship, diversity is strength.

 

Let’s get to work!

Milica will be hosting one of the workshops during Intrapreneurship Conference Vienna, where she’ll be providing you with a set of versatile conditions and structures to build a community of innovators working on creating new products and services.

“I’ve been to several conferences and meetups, and each time you have this “We need to do that in our company from tomorrow on” moment. The next day, you return to your office ambitious and with loads of fresh input, but it’s important to apply what you heard as soon as possible before your daily routines move the fresh input behind your main priorities and deadlines.

In our workshop, I’ll work with participants on understanding how structures and small changes can be applied in order to be more innovative and creative – from the ground up.”

 

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