Congratulations! Your energy and track record of successfully launching high-impact initiatives scored you a plum role heading up innovation. Expectations are high, but some skeptics in the organization feel that innovation is an overhyped buzzword that doesn’t justify being a separate function. So, what can you do in your first 100 days to set things off on the right track?
Over the past decade we’ve helped dozens of leaders through their first 100 days. Based on our experience, augmented by in-depth interviews with a few of the most seasoned practitioners with which we have worked, we suggest that innovation leaders put the following five items on their 100-day punch list.
Spend quality time with every member of the executive committee. This should go without saying, but it’s vitally important to develop relationships with the CEO, business unit leaders, and other key executives to understand the company’s strategy, so that the innovation approach and projects you pursue align with overall corporate goals. Brad Gambill, who over the past few years has played a leading role in strategy and innovation at LGE, SingTel, and TE Connectivity, believes the first 100 days are an ideal time to “ask dumb questions and master the basics of the business.” He particularly suggests focusing on the things “everyone else takes for granted and thinks are obvious but aren’t quite so obvious to people coming in from the outside.” So don’t be afraid to ask why a decision-making meeting ran the way it did or challenge the wisdom of pursuing a certain strategy or project.
It is particularly important to understand these executives’ views of two things – innovation’s role in helping the company achieve its growth goals and your role in leading innovation. Is innovation intended to improve and expand the existing business, or is it meant to redefine the company itself and the industry in which it operates? Do executives expect you to establish and incubate growth businesses, act as a coach to existing teams, or focus on establishing a culture of innovation so that new ideas emerge organically?