How to Choose an Innovation Partner

First things first: when should you hire an innovation partner?

Here’s a handy list, see if you can relate:

  • You’re curious about a market space and want more information
  • You’d like to refresh your offering to current customers
  • You’d like to enter a new market or deploy a new (to you) technology
  • You’d like to build a new product or service
  • You’d like to test a new feature or concept
  • Your existing innovation process isn’t moving as fast or a far as you’d like it to
  • You thought you had a consumer but now you can’t find them
  • You’re ready to build a corporate innovation lab
You in? Good.
Next, and most importantly: find a team that aligns to your goals and values.

There are teams out there who are holding out to build the next Amazon or Google, there are teams who are psyched to create the next Christmas toy sensation and call it a day, and there are teams in the middle. Find a group of like-minded individuals who share your same goals. Then, get to know them as people. See if their values are similar to yours. While this may sound like “nice to know” information, it’s actually the thing that will get you through the challenges you’re about to face, and there will be challenges.

Which brings us to: if a company tells you there will be no challenges, don’t hire them.

Part of corporate innovation and new ventures is learning to glean wisdom from failures and missteps, and when you’re in territory no one has navigated before, there are sure to be some unexpected bumps along the way. It’s how you handle those challenges together that will shape your endeavor.

There’s a little yin and yang here, next is: choose positive people.

Have you ever seen a vision for something new take off because someone convinced you of how difficult the road to get there will be? Nope. Pick a team that gets excited about your new venture, and is helpful to you in bringing others along for the ride. You’re gonna need them when you start pitching your ideas.

Ask about execution. Like, lots of questions about execution.

If you’re going to stake the future of your business (not to mention your career) on something, it should be sound. So, look for a team that can execute a plan and deliver real results. Say and do testing are both important, but it’s that do signal that will put your mind at ease as you hone your idea.

In the process of hiring a venture studio or innovation team? Here are some helpful questions to ask:
  • What’s your ideal process? Is it adaptable based on our needs?
  • Who will be working with my team?
  • What do your deliverables look like? Do you just make us a deck and leave?
  • What kinds of pilots/micro-pilots have you run in the past?
  • Do you have any case studies you can share?
  • What is your ideal client like? Ideal company/brand/organization?