10 Questions to ask an Innovation Advisor

Embarking on an innovation journey can be difficult without a guide – someone to point you in the right direction, someone who has traveled this road before.

Innovation specialists can help shed new light on your organization’s structure and can help inspire new ways of thinking. A fresh perspective can make a world of difference for an organization that is trying to build or revitalize its innovation program. Asking your guides the right questions before and during your innovation journey will ensure that everyone is aligned and working successfully toward your end goals.

Before you start your innovation journey:

  1. Ask them how they connect innovation, strategy, and leadership. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but what they say will give you important insight into how they think and how they will guide you.
  2. Ask them about their experiences. Not just professional, but also their educational experiences. The most innovative people are open-minded and have a wide range of experiences and a broad education. They tend to be less restricted in their thinking and actions.
  3. Ask them if they are participating in or leading the innovation. Yes, you need a good leader with plenty of experience, but you never know; an outsider’s idea or opinion could be the breakthrough you’ve been looking for.
  4. Ask them to describe the culture at their own organization. What about it makes it so successful in innovation? Why is it so valuable? Ask for examples of the work they have done in your industry or one that’s similar.
  5. Ask them what role the customer should play in the innovation strategy. What kind of consideration will the customer get throughout the innovation journey? Are they developing products for a certain group of consumers, or are they developing products that will shape consumers a certain way?

As you begin your innovation journey:

  1. Ask the consultant to help you set realistic goals and to help you measure where your company stands at any given time. Ask them for small milestones and quick wins that will help build enthusiasm for the program.
  2. Ask them how they get people to think more creatively. What can they do to break with company culture and think outside the box? You want breakthrough ideas that are truly transformative, so you need a breakthrough and transformative way of thinking to get there.
  3. Ask them what they can do to get more people involved in the innovation project. How can the company, with the help of its innovation advisors, encourage participants to share their ideas more openly in a safe, democratic environment?
  4. Ask what kinds of skills are required to lead innovation at the executive and project levels. Have them teach you those skills and transfer them to everyone involved in the innovation project.
  5. Ask how to build a network of innovation champions. Ask what kind of infrastructure this network should have. When is the viral ideation space preferable over live group facilitation for creative thinking, or vice versa? How can they help ensure effective group brainstorming and communication?

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