10 Ways to Find Internal Innovation Champions from the Outside Looking In

December 30, 2015

Finding someone to champion your idea within an organization can be difficult. These tips will help you find your advocate.

Creating corporate innovation is never easy and takes several steps. Carlson and Wilmot mention five disciplines:

Important Needs: Work on important customer and market needs, not just what is interesting to you.

Value Creation: Use the tools of value creation to create customer value fast.

Innovation Champions: Be an innovation champion to drive the value-creation process.

Innovation Teams: Use a multidisciplinary, team-based approach to innovation to create a collective, genius-level IQ.

Organizational Alignment: Get your team and enterprise aligned to systematically produce high-value innovations.

Identifying innovation champions within your organization is not always easy. Appealing to self-interest is one tip and there are many more. However, when it comes to identifying internal champions from the outside in, it is even harder to penetrate the internal firewalls. For example, suppose you have a digital health product that you want to develop and test with a hospital or physician provider? How and where do you find those people interested in innovating who are earlyvangelists and adopters?

What are early adopters?

Here are 10 ways to find them:

1. Create a free to the customer model so they don't have to pay for it.

2. Make it painless. Be sure to make your product as easy to buy and use as possible so that you do most of the work and they client gets most of the value.

3. Find an internal mole, connector, maven, salesperson, or doer who knows the landmines and knows how to remove the gatekeepers.

4. Be sure you know your potential target’s pain, who it affects, and how your solution aligns with their strategy.

5. Find a third-party advocate or ex-employees who can provide you with the necessary support and business intelligence.

6. Ask the grunts in the trenches. They know the leaders, who does what and who can get things done.

7. Contact those with a track record. While past accomplishes are no guarantee of future accomplishments, and the old line “if you want to get something done talk to someone who is busy” doesn’t always work, at least it will give you some warm leads. If they say no, ask, "Who else should I talk to?" Doers know other doers.

8. Social media tracking is a great place to listen. Most use it to shout.

9. Find disproportionate pain points and who has the most to gain from treating them.

10. Go big or go home. Focus on big market opportunities, not tinkering.

Finally, another factor in finding champions from outside in is to tell your story and create enough buzz so they can find you.

Finding internal champions is a black art. It takes intelligence and the right strategy and tactics to find your champions. Realize that like every other customer, they buy emotionally and justify rationally. You are unlikely to find most of them in the C-suite, so stop wasting your time on LinkedIn and coffee shops barking up the wrong trees.