Getting leadership buy-in for your innovation programme

Shaking hands: Innovation projects are more likely to succeed when senior leaders are engaged.

Research has shown that innovation projects are much more likely to succeed when senior leaders are heavily involved and engaged. So here are several tips to make sure your leadership is behind the process from the start.

In our experience, innovation projects are far more successful if you have the full support of your leadership team from the outset. In fact, research from Accenture has shown that innovation projects where the leadership is hands-on and involved are far more likely to have positive outcomes. One reason is that leaders can get involved early in clearing any obstacles that arise, making the whole process much smoother.

That's not to say that it's always easy to secure the support of your leadership team - so here are a few headline pointers from us based on what we've learned.

Planning your pitch is key

If you want to win over the leadership team to support your innovation programme, you will need a clear plan that will show them the value of the programme and that answers the main questions that they are likely to have. It is also worth noting here that some innovation programmes take a long time to come to fruition, so you need to allow yourself enough time to deliver on your promises.

Why, why, why?

Buy-in and investment may not come easily from the executive team, therefore you will need to make sure they know why it is important that they do so. With this stage, it is important to listen from your leadership team and try to learn what are the key challenges that the organisation faces and which objectives are close to the leadership team’s heart?

A key objective that you will likely come across is to grow the business. A starting point for this is explaining the power of crowds in moving business forward faster. Within your organisation, there is a huge amount of intelligence, knowledge and ideas that potentially aren’t being accessed. Through crowd-sourcing, you can tap into and make use of these resources that your employees already possess.

What are the key benefits?

If you present your innovation programme as valuable simply because it's innovation, you're less likely to get support. Ensure that you demonstrate how the innovation programme could help the organisation achieve its objectives faster, more efficiently, or better.

It may be useful to mention that an innovation programme can help to:

  • Break down silos - An innovation programme can be the catalyst to company-wide learning, collaboration and sharing.
  • Increase employee engagement and retention - Innovation programmes can help engage employees and companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%.
  • Create higher quality ideas - An innovation programme can lead to higher contributor diversity will mean that you will get better quality ideas.
What will you need?

What resources does the project need to run successfully? How much investment will the project need? Having the answer to these questions is important when getting buy-in for your innovation project. The resources you will need to run your innovation project will depend largely on a variety of factors such as staffing requirements and the tools that you use.

How will success be measured?

When justifying your innovation programme to your leadership team it is very important that you can measure the success you have had. You can measure the success of your innovation project in a number of ways, such as the level of employee engagement, the number of new ideas you have or the number of challenges you have solved.

Share success stories

A brilliant way of building support for your innovation project is to share success stories of where crowd-sourcing and innovation have provided huge value for yourself and other companies. For example, you can share the story of Goldcorp who used open innovation to locate gold with an incentive of just over half a million dollars and from this were able to mine over six billion dollars worth of gold.

Incremental vs radical

It is important not to promise radical innovation as soon as your innovation programme begins. Truly radical change takes time to implement, so make sure your programme includes enough incremental innovation challenges so you can show progress in a short time-frame.

Some further reading:


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Cecilia Thirlway

Cecilia Thirlway

I'm interested in everything, but particularly in innovation, technology and intra/entrepreneurship. I can (and will!) chat with anyone, whether in a boardroom, meeting room, classroom or just over a beer. I love finding out about people, ideas and organisations and creating stories to connect them all.

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