After months of work, haggling, encouraging, and deep breathing, you finally have your innovation capability up and running.

Your innovation strategy clearly aligns with and supports the overall business strategy. Teams know the boundaries within which they can innovate, understand the results they need to deliver and access the people and tools they need to make progress. Your leadership team regularly engages with innovation teams, talks with customers, and shares progress and learnings with the whole organization.

Your work here is done. 



It’s just beginning.

Building a lasting capability for sustainable and repeatable innovation is a marathon, not a sprint. And while what you achieved is genuinely momentous, it’s also the equivalent of signing up for a marathon, putting on your shoes, and walking out your front door. 

In short, you’ve just started training.

Training for a marathon

Full disclosure, I have never run a marathon, and I never intend to. Many years ago, a group of friends decided to run a marathon, and I volunteered to be their Team Manager and handle all travel and game day logistics. Long story short, I missed one of our re-fueling points because I took a nap in the car. Yes, I can’t even drive a marathon without getting tired.

So, to make sure this analogy holds, I sought training advice for beginners from Runner’s World. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Training usually requires 16 to 20 weeks of running three to five times a week. That’s 48 to 100 training sessions to complete ONE marathon!
  2. Beginners should focus on finishing the marathon, not their time to complete it. Remember, the first person to run a marathon died. Living to tell your tale is winning.
  3. You will miss training sessions. If you don’t miss too many (4 weeks or more), you’ll be fine.
  4. Training is hard. The key is distinguishing “good pain” from “bad pain.”
  5. Strength training and conditioning are just as important as running is in your training program.

Training for lasting innovation

Full disclosure, I have done a lot of innovation as both an intrapreneur and a consultant. As a result, I can assure you that leaders of newly established innovation capabilities endure a training experience similar to marathoners’.

  1. Stabilizing your innovation capability to be “the way we do business” takes significantly longer than establishing it. You will have to engage, encourage, advocate, remind, steer, and communicate 48-100 times more now than you had to in the past.
  2. Organizations should focus on proving that they can successfully create, test, and launch a commercially viable innovation, not finding the next $1B idea. Remember, ideas are a dime a dozen, and the organization is burned out on innovation theater. Launching something that makes money proves that innovation is possible and that is winning.
  3. You will have failures. If you take the time to learn from them, to find the root cause, and make changes, so they don’t happen again, you’ll be fine.
  4. Innovation is hard because change and uncertainty are hard. The key is distinguishing “good pain” from bad pain. It’s called “growing pains,” not “growing tickles” for a reason.
  5. Managing and growing your core business is just as crucial as stabilizing and encouraging innovation. You need to see the whole picture to make the best decisions to reach your short-term AND long-term goals.

What’s your innovation training regimen?

Being a leader is like being a runner – it’s an identity.

Being a leader that supports and enables innovation is like being a marathoner – people think you’re crazy to endure the pain and discipline of training, but they will never know the high that comes from achieving a seemingly impossible goal.

What did I miss in the list above? What’s your innovation training regimen?