Perhaps your big idea just got you a new executive title at your company. Or maybe you got poached by a fast-moving competitor. Either way, the pressure is on for you to show how you can create new revenue streams, lead a team to build a new product, redefine your company, or turn the whole industry on its head.
Scott Anthony, the managing partner of the consulting firm Innosight and author of The Little Black Book of Innovation, and Robyn Bolton, a partner at Innosight, write in Harvard Business Review about how to hit the ground running during the first 100 days after being promoted or starting a new job.
Below, Anthony and Bolton have outlined the advice they give clients of their firm. Make sure to put these five suggestions on your to-do list.
Challenge the obvious
This is the time to question everything the company does. Brad Gambill, who led strategy and innovation at LGE, SingTel, and TE Connectivity, tells Anthony and Bolton that he believes the first 100 days is the perfect time to "ask dumb questions and master the basics of the business."
Gambill says you need to take a closer look at things no one is paying attention to and systems, protocols, or traditions that "everyone else takes for granted and thinks are obvious but aren't quite so obvious to people coming in from the outside." You also need to spend time with each of your fellow executives and find out how they see "innovation's role in helping the company achieve its growth goals and your role in leading innovation," the duo writes in HBR. "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 a growth businesses, act as a coach to existing teams, or focus on establishing a culture of innovation so that new ideas emerge organically?"
What is blocking your way to usher in new ideas? "Chances are, you won't get the same answers to [the above] questions from everyone you talk to. Those areas where executives disagree with one another will define the most immediate (and often the most fundamental) challenges and opportunities you'll face in your role," Anthony and Bolton write. "As quickly as possible within your first 100 days, therefore, you will need to understand where the fault lines lay in your company." There are three telltale signs that reveal the company's strategy, the authors say: "How it funds and staffs projects, how it measures and rewards performance, and how it allocates overall budgets," If you understand these three actions, then you will identify where the priorities fail to match the company's stated goals.
Bring up problems with solutions
Titles like "chief of innovation" may sound ridiculous to old-line executives. You don't want to make enemies with a CEO or CTO who thinks you may be gunning for his job. The CEO, Gambill says, "has lots of people who know how to point out problems; it is important to establish yourself as a problem solver and confidant as quickly as possible." If you bring up a problem, bring up its solution. "Determine how you plan to balance your efforts between developing ideas, supporting initiatives in other parts of the organization, and creating an overall culture of innovation," Anthony and Bolton write.
Listen to your customers
Do not forget the most important people: your customers. Your ideas must be anchored by customer insights. "Companies tend to define their world based on the categories in which they compete or the products they offer. However, customers are always on the lookout for the best way to get a job done and don't really care what industries or categories the solutions happen to fall into," Anthony and Bolton write. "Understanding how customers make their choices often reveals a completely different set of competitors, redefining the market in which your company operates, its role in the market, and the basis for business success." Markets are blended into one another today, so do not get hung up on your company's category or definition.
Diversify your project portfolio.
You need to have a range of projects in your pipeline. Get some quick initial wins, but start working on big, long-term and exploratory projects that have power to transform your company. Still, continued success will not teach you everything. You need to be comfortable with failure. "When considering quick wins, don't avoid quick losses. True innovation requires an organization to stop avoiding failure and see the benefits of learning from it," Anthony and Bolton write. "But failure remains very scary to everyone. Have enough things going on that you can tolerate a quick loss without damaging your overall pipeline."