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Put a team in charge of enterprise wide innovation

You must have a team who manages, oversees and tracks progress toward fundamental innovation.

This is an excerpt from “Table Stakes: A Manual for Getting in the Game of News,” published Nov. 14, 2017. Read more excerpts here.

Senior leaders must ask a team to take charge of managing innovation. This team’s charter might include oversight of continuous improvement as well as fundamental innovation.

This team probably ought to be no greater than 5 or 6 folks who come from the newsroom, digital strategy, marketing/publisher, technology and product management.

Your news enterprise’s senior management group should:

  • Define the team’s charter while also setting specific expectations about (1) performance outcomes and learning objectives; (2) the budget of money and people resources the team should use; and, (3) the team’s authority to use partnering approaches.
  • Expect the team to define the disciplines, process (e.g. phases and traffic lights) and criteria for choosing among possible innovations and managing progress
  • Establish periodic reviews (for example, once every two to four months) when the team shares with senior management the portfolio of efforts underway; progress updates on what’s moving forward versus what’s being stopped or put on pause; how much of the budget has been used versus what remains; and, how the company’s innovation efforts are doing against performance and learning goals.

The team should use the charter as well as processes and criteria established to identify and choose among innovative ideas and approaches – ones that should explicitly call for fast following, home grown innovations and partnering. In particular, the innovation team should:

  • Brainstorm (with selected others) as complete a list as possible of innovation and change opportunities/challenges necessary to win;
  • For each possible innovation or change, identify:
  • The people/team who will pursue the innovation in question
  • The estimated required cost (money, time) to pursue
  • The uncertainties (hi/lo for technology, capability, market readiness and internal confidence about market)
  • The other risks involved (e.g. brand risk)
  • Whether partnering is a preferred approach; and, if so, how that will get done
  • Establish criteria for selecting which innovations and changes to pursue now versus later
  • Make choices and get going.

With the initial choices about which innovations to pursue in hand, the team then should:

  • Ask teams pursuing selected innovation to define the performance results as well as learning objectives they seek (the learning objectives must connect to converting any sources of uncertainty into clarity and certainty)
  • Choose the most appropriate disciplines for these teams to use among:
  • Continuous improvement: establishing and pursuing performance and skill improvements in the context of ‘just doing our jobs’
  • Fundamental innovation: using a ‘phases and traffic lights’ approach to riskier and more uncertain innovations
  • Establish periodic review sessions in which progress and lessons learned are monitored – and choices get made to add other innovation and change efforts as the needed resources to do so emerge
  • Periodically (and persistently) going back to the first step above: that is, brainstorm a list as possible of innovation and change opportunities/challenges necessary to get to – indeed, beyond – table stakes (including those arising from fast following and, if such collaboration exists, those being done with partners)

Track progress

Each particular innovation – just as each continuous innovation effort – has its own scorecard – it’s own set of outcome-defined performance results plus learning objectives. And, your news enterprise’s team running innovation and continuous improvement must monitor, update and act upon those objectives.

At least a couple times a year (if not more often), your news enterprise ought to assess how you’re doing against these markers of success – and, if you have gaps, how you’ll close them:

  • We have made geography a source of competitive advantage and profitability.
  • We routinely create substantial local value in ways that others cannot replicate.
  • Our enterprise purposes go beyond providing content and also include fostering experiences, connectedness, conversations, convening and community problem solving.
  • Our newsroom weaves together in as many ways as possible what our targeted audiences experience in real and virtual life with what is for those audiences also local and social.
  • Our news enterprise has many brands, products, services, revenue streams and business models – not just a few.
  • Our local audiences and enterprises pay us for the value we create in many ways not just a few.
  • Our enterprise costs are lower, more flexible and variable, and shared.