In my previous blog in this series, we discussed the guiding principles for implementing a successful Innovation Funding Board (IFB). In this blog, we’ll look more closely at the actual components needed for it to function effectively within an organization.
As with many initiatives of this nature, the first step is to identify key internal stakeholders who will contribute to its success. IFBs rely on far more than just the board members themselves to function effectively. They require a steady flow of ideas and concepts from Innovation Venture Teams, but also need to be championed within the wider organization by an IFB Process Facilitator. Let’s break these three main roles down briefly:
Innovation Venture Teams: The foundation of any successful IFB, these teams are responsible for proposing new innovation projects and driving them through to incubation and eventual implementation if successful. Typically, they should consist of three to four core members responsible for reporting into the IFB, with a wider support team on hand to provide additional expertise and help as needed.
Innovation Funding Board: Members of the IFB itself play the central role in reviewing, selecting, and funding projects, as well as providing guidance and feedback for innovation teams to keep ideas on track. The board typically is made up of cross-functional leaders from across the organization with the expertise required to effectively review, select, fund, and coach innovation teams.
IFB Process Facilitator: Playing a critical role, the IFB Process Facilitator must support the IFB review process, and also manage and coach the innovation teams outside of the review meetings. To be successful, the IFB Process Facilitator (whether it be an individual or group of individuals) must have both the credibility and clout to effectively navigate the tensions and ambiguity inherent in higher-risk innovation projects.
Once you’ve identified and assembled these three teams, the next step is to define and share the characteristics of what “ideal opportunities” should look like. These will vary from business to business. The aim is to put a series of loose, non-constricting guidelines in place through which the Innovation Venture Teams can channel their creative thinking to ensure innovation remains on track.
Finally, it’s important to establish what success ultimately looks like, both to the IFB and the organization as a whole. One simple way to do this is to break it down into core business areas and ask how success would manifest itself in each. Below are three such areas and some questions to ask:
- Governance – Has the innovation process become more consistent? Are projects being more effectively started and stopped where necessary?
- Financials – Is the organization’s innovation portfolio being more effectively balanced across all project types? Are investment risks being minimized via delivery of funding in tranches?
- People/Culture – Is a more entrepreneurial culture emerging from within the business as a result of the IFB process? Is engagement with the IFB process increasing over time?
A lack of clear criteria upon which to benchmark success makes it difficult for business leaders and other key stakeholders to understand how well the IFB function is performing. As such, taking the time to identify broad key performance indicators at this point can be greatly beneficial in the long run.
With key players established and a benchmark for success in place, the next step is to use the IFB to refine the innovation process itself. In my next blog, I’ll share how to do just that, taking great ideas from inception to full implementation in a fast and effective manner.