Capitalizing on old lessons to inspire revolutionary change.
At Innovation Booster, we help organizations to embed a culture that drives innovation. This is an easy statement for us to make now. But we had to go on our own journey of trial and error before discovering how to generate the excitement that makes this happen. The insights we gained during our early days led us to develop the process which now lies at the heart of our methodology for transformation. And for me personally, these also came from lessons I implicitly learned from my parents.
I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My mother had a very successful event marketing agency, which she’d built from the ground up, serving iconic Dutch brands as Hema and Douwe Egberts by organizing amazing promotional events to enhance business relationships. These events were all about deepening engagement with both employees and business associates.
Hema 75th anniversary event in Gelredome, Arnhem (Photo Hema)
My father, meanwhile, worked for large hotel and restaurant chains, where everything was about putting the customer first and giving them a sense of being really well taken care of.
Both of my parents were thereby working to similar philosophies based around giving people eye-opening experiences and fresh perspectives. Having grown up in an environment with this focus, it was something that stuck with me, and which I now bring to work every day.
Missing the connection
Six years ago, when we first started toying with the idea of setting up a company around innovation, the challenge of how to get company employees excited and engaged was constantly on my mind.
However, we didn’t quite manage to achieve it from our initial way of working. At that time we carried out projects for our clients, rather than with our clients. Getting great results, but working on our own and only connecting with them at specific points to report progress. We made our clients very happy. But we also noticed they weren’t as brimming with enthusiasm and excitement as we felt they should have been.
We were achieving more concrete results faster than anyone ever thought possible. We were incredibly excited that our venture was finally earning us money. And this caused us to be blinded by our own success. After a while, we eventually became aware that, despite delivering the needed results, clients were not returning to us. Why was this?
We identified three common factors:
- Clients were happy with the outcomes from our small projects, such as conducting a single exploration or pilot around a new business initiative, but they hadn’t properly taken on board the learning experience itself.
- We had a hard time finding places within their organizations to actually implement our innovation and mindset.
- Our proposals for bigger projects with more impact, such as putting initiatives into execution or conducting organizational transformations of mind-sets and ways of working, were met with a lot of resistance.
An analysis of the situation made us realize that we couldn’t carry on like this. Our own business model was not sustainable on the basis of one-off small projects. We needed repeat business and larger projects. Something had to change dramatically!
Engagement leads to excitement
During the course of our internal meetings to address this, the philosophy I’d acquired from my parents started to surface. The thing we were missing was the engagement factor. We needed to generate more support for the work we were doing within our clients’ organizations. We needed to get their own people more involved in the process so that they, themselves, would experience the sense of excitement our new way of thinking deserved!
As my mother always told me: “You have to get people in motion and let them experience something new before they change their behavior”
Diffusion of Innovation (Rogers, 1962)
Being the engineering obsessives we are, we combined this idea with the renowned Diffusion of Innovations model by Rogers (1962). The Excitement Curve was born.
Excitement Curve Figure
This trajectory is implemented within an organization via a three phase process:
- Engage: Begin with the right challenge and the right team/stakeholders. Start collecting evidence
- Educate: Inform and teach how this new innovation could benefit the organization, using the fact-based evidence
- Empower: Equip the organization to exploit this new innovation in all possible perspectives
Our idea is based on the assumption that the same rules apply whether you’re getting a product into a mass market or getting a new mindset/culture adopted in a company (social innovation).
A great example can be taken from the introduction of the mobile phone. When these first became available, the majority of people didn’t see it as something they had any need for. It was the innovators, the Wall Street businessmen (with their huge phones attached to massive battery packs), who inspired everyday people to realize these devices could actually be of use to them too. They showed the world that, by being connected all the time, work and life could be easier and more fun. This organically led to early adopters and, eventually, all other consumer segments getting on board and discovering how their own needs could be fulfilled through having a mobile phone.
Putting the Excitement Curve into practice
We went on to test our model by applying some new preconditions, which we assumed were necessary for climbing the Excitement Curve and finding the early innovators we needed, within our newly acquired projects.
- Time and effort commitment: we asked our clients to select employees and free their schedules to work together with us.
- Location commitment: we asked for a location within the client’s office, which we could freely use to experiment with the physical aspects (visual thinking, stand ups, etc.) of our way of working.
- Connection commitment: we asked for permission to freely contact everyone in the client organization to collect information for inclusion in the process.
Sure enough, by implementing and being disciplined about enforcing these conditions we engaged the innovators we needed and got the excitement going. Some valuable lessons arose while doing so:
- Think bold, start small.
Big changes or innovation projects are naturally met with a lot of resistance. But if you start small and enable everyone to learn at a comfortable pace, you can get things moving without causing upset.
- Identify and involve formal and informal key stakeholders.
Find out which people within the organization could potentially benefit from your innovation and engage, educate and empower them to become a part of your efforts.
- Share your results and efforts.
Set up a social rhythm with your key stakeholders to share your results and efforts, so they can follow the progress and learn alongside you. And get the evidence they need to bring the innovation to the next level.
We found that putting all this into practice made a big difference to our ability to secure the scaling up of innovations and keep the innovation mindset going. This is still one of our key philosophies we use day-to-day to make change a more organic and exciting process. So if you want to bring about change in your organization, start finding your early innovators and get climbing the Excitement Curve!
Became excited about the Excitement Curve? Just simply contact Anthony to get to know even more!