steve finneyAs part of my career path at The Walt Disney Company, I had the opportunity to work with Steve Finney, a person who has a reputation for being an agent of change, a guy who knows how to make the impossible – possible, and an out-of-the box thinker.

Two months ago, like myself, Steve chose to leave Disney to become an entrepreneur and now I’m pleased that we are working together once again. This time, we are collaborating as alliance partners in Fresh Juice Global, driving innovation of brand businesses.

It’s my pleasure to introduce Steve and his first radical expansion blog on the Process for Implementing Innovation.

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A Process for Successfully Implementing Innovation by Steve Finney

“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” -Victor Hugo

Each of the steps for implementing innovation are well known, in the sense that the individual components for the process are likely already present within your organization – in that regard it does not take a restructuring or reorganization effort in order to successfully complete a project that is envisioned to reinvent your product or service. What is typically deficient however is the ordering and active-management of these individual steps into a coherent and productive process, one that is designed to drive the initiative to an effective and successful conclusion.

The process I will outline here was followed and refined at a major specialty retailer that was on the brink of dissolution – shortly after being acquired from bankruptcy. Two years later, at the conclusion of the innovation process, key metric results were captured at twenty locations throughout North America and Europe, and the outcome of their innovation process resulted in an unassailable proof of success:

• Over 90% of customers surveyed confirmed that the new shopping experience made them feel closer to the core of the brand
• Average sales at store locations converted to the new prototype increased 20%, compared to the previous sales at the same location
• Average gross margin increased by 300 basis points compared to other stores with the same merchandise assortment – further validating that the business was becoming less reliant on the use of promotional discounts in order to convert shoppers into buyers

The core of the process can be illustrated as a circle of life, and the illustration accurately implies that although the process has a starting point, once the process is initiated it will become a thriving ecosystem that is continuously functioning and perpetually in motion – unless of course any of the links is subsequently broken, in which case the entire process has the potential to terminate.


Illustration of a process for reinvention

The starting point is at the top of the circle, specifically the step designated as ‘be inspired.’ However it is important to keep in mind that once the process is activated that there is a dependency created among all the steps of the process – and a failure to concurrently pursue each step will likely cause the process to come to an end, thereby halting your progress toward the goal of the initiative.

A brief overview of the steps in the process and how they interrelate:

be inspired – As a leader, you will rely upon inspiration to maintain your commitment to innovation when you encounter the inevitable obstacles that challenge your forward progress. Find your inspiration from within the legacy of your brand, the urgency demanded by your customers for you to drive innovation, or from an external source (see the step ‘embrace external influencers’).

“Get a good idea, stay with it. Dog it and work it until it is done, and done right.” -Walt Disney

formulate a vision – A clear and understandable vision will communicate to everyone … your customers, employees, and investors … the goal of your transformation. In that sense, a single vision statement that can be used for all constituencies is most desired – and it can become a lens through which you evaluate alternatives and apply decisions.

“Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” -Jack Welsh

embrace external influencers – In order to drive genuine innovation you will need to look outside of your experience, your organization, and even outside your industry for ideas that are far beyond your comfort zone. You should aggressively gather and embrace advice from external sources because they will be a catalyst for you to see alternatives from a different perspective, and thereby not solely through the lens of your own knowledge. External influencers will advance your innovation project in ways that you cannot possibly imagine.

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly” -R. Buckminster Fuller

encourage chaos – The process of implementing innovation is by its nature going to have chaotic effects on your entire business system, but I am not referring to chaos as a state of disorder, but as recognition that innovation has the power to create a large number of motions throughout your business system – most of them unforeseen. Contrary to the most common inclination of managers, which is to struggle against chaos in order to gain control or to attempt and redirect the consequences in a direction that was conceived at the start of the reinvention project – you must encourage the chaotic consequences of innovation, confident that the outcome of skillful innovation will most likely be beneficial chaos.

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” -Frederick Nietzsche

apply project management – Encouraging chaos prepares you to expect impacts at anytime and anywhere, and project management will provide the opportunity for you to quickly spot the effects of innovation. A rigorous project management process must be applied to all your significant change initiatives in order to keep communication channels open and flowing across the project team, and to document the effects of chaos throughout the entire business system. It is the power of the people within your organization that will push the benefits of innovation far and wide throughout the business … and it is the power of organization that keeps your people focused on managing the effects of innovation, so that they do not fear or resist the change, instead they are ready to embrace the effect and harvest the benefits.

“The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non—obvious.” -Marcus Aurelius

practice everything – Practice will position your organization to execute innovation at an exceptional level, primarily by minimizing the surprises and unanticipated events that occur everyday in your business.

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” -Yogi Berra

evaluate failure – Innovation risks failure, and inevitably some of your innovations will fail. Failure should be viewed as a positive step in your process of innovation, because if you don’t risk failure you are never going to truly breakthrough to new ideas. Understanding the ‘why’ of failures is critical to future success, so that you can increase the probability that future innovations will succeed.

“It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” -Bill Gates

Following a process of reinvention to its conclusion has the potential to completely transform your business – in the eyes of your target customers, employees, and investors. Success will result in a business model that has been repositioned farther ahead of your competitors, and closer to the hearts of your best customers – so that your brand is connected, beloved, and demanded by consumers.