Insights | By Howard Tiersky

Does Your Brand Need an Innovation Hero?

Digital innovators such as Amazon and Uber have set completely new levels of customer expectations around brand experiences. Most brands from the pre-digital era must still undergo substantial transformation to remain relevant to their increasingly digitally-centric customer.

 At FROM we have worked with dozens of large enterprises facing this challenge and we see a common thread among those who are succeeding-- the Innovation Hero.

Who is the Innovation Hero and why is he or she necessary? Why were Batman or Superman necessary? Metropolis and Gotham City both had perfectly capable police forces to fight crime, but those police forces were created in anticipation of ordinary day-to-day criminals. They were not structured to know how to deal with the types of super villains that turned the town's power plant into a galactic death ray or turned the entire population of the city into zombies. For these types of threats, someone outside the system is needed, someone who doesn’t follow all the rules, someone who sees the bigger picture…that's the superhero!

Most enterprise brands have been fighting competitive threats and shifting consumer preferences for many decades. But these were of a more ordinary pace and range. Today's digital threat is more along the lines of the super-villain scale, and the methods and processes most large brands have established to evolve their offerings and customer interactions are as inadequate for the digital threat as the beat cop's baton is against the Joker's explosive toys. Hence the emergence of the Innovation Hero, also known as the Digital Innovator.

So how can you find the Innovation Hero who can save your company? Comic book superheroes sometimes emerge from humble backgrounds, sometimes are millionaires. Some have an inner drive, and some are chosen by a higher power. At your company, the Innovation Hero might be your CEO, CIO or CMO, or it might be someone who starts a few levels down. In any case, the Innovation Hero inevitably winds up acting well beyond their assigned purview. This is because no matter what the level, the demands of digital innovation cut broadly across an organization and other than the CEO, nobody else has the breadth of authority to cover it all.

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So what are the Superpowers of an Innovation Hero?

  • Super Vision:

Innovation heroes see the threats to the business and take point in painting a picture of the future customer experience, technology capabilities and organizational shifts that will be needed in order to meet the opportunities of the future.

  • Super Courage and Strength:

There will be battles, and there will be injuries along the way. Innovation Heroes are not focused on covering their butts or deterred by setbacks; they persist!

  • Superhuman Speed:

Digital moves at a pace most organizations are not familiar with. Innovation Heroes utilize processes like agile and push for flexible, cloud-based solutions that allow them to drive rapid digital innovation and iteration.

  • Speaks All Languages:

Innovation heroes can convey the message in the languages of the business, IT, marketing, and user experience. They may not be the top experts in all or any of these areas, but they can bridge them and create a common understanding.

  • Time Travel:

The Innovation Hero focuses both on the long-term "big picture" as well as on driving the interim wins that both demonstrate success and help fund future transformation.

  • Allies with other SuperHeroes:

Digital transformation requires many parts of the organization to work together to win. Innovation Heroes persuade leaders across different departments and divisions to come onboard and be a part of a super-team driving victory.

  • Generosity:

 The Innovation Hero is looking to drive the right outcome, not for credit.

Who is the Innovation Hero at your company? Perhaps it should be you? Remember superheroes don’t have to be perfect. In fact, comic book heroes are always flawed in one or several ways, but their sincerity of purpose and persistence ultimately lead them to victory.