Innovation leaps: Leading the charge

Executive Director & Partner
New York

How do you move an Innovation project from the whiteboard to the real world? Where do you start and how do you fund it? How do you measure innovation’s full ROI?

Smart Design hosted a Fast Company Fast Track session on how to strategically make innovation a business reality within organizations as part of the 2019 Fast Company Innovation Festival. These lessons — presented in break out sessions at the event —focus on 3 areas essential to moving an innovation program forward:

  • Leadership: Find & build momentum for ambitious innovation
  • Technology: Accelerate solutions through prototyping
  • Piloting: Optimize consumer experience and define key value propositions

Part one of our content series focuses on leadership and how to find and build momentum to support ambitious innovation within organizations. In our “Leading the charge” break out session, Tucker Fort, Partner at Smart and Xavi Cortadellas Head of Innovation at Gatorade, presented key lessons from developing the Gatorade Gx Ecosystem from a sketch to the current system used by the world’s most prestigious sports teams. Smart’s work helped Gatorade expand from sports drinks into sports monitoring by building a multi-product ecosystem that has expanded to include a wearable patch that analyzes sweat, and smartphone app to help athletes track their hydration. Read on to learn 5 key ways to build momentum within your organization by leveraging already existing teams, products, and services.

1. Be an entrepreneur within your organization

Act and think like an entrepreneur to kickstart your innovation project. Start by laying out your vision and roadmap. This is the dynamo that will help you build momentum and get internal buy-in for resources from your team.

2. Embrace open innovation

Be deliberate upfront about identifying your core strengths and expertise and where you’ll need help. You can then look for the right partnership models to bolt onto your team. This allows you to remain nimble while executing at a high level.

3. Pilot, document, and share

Success sells. Focus on early wins, document your process, and create momentum to drive traction internally and externally. For example, when developing Gx, the Brazilian national soccer team was the first to test the personalized hydration recommendations in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. The entire pilot was shot on video and the highlights were widely shared within Gatorade, which helped create excitement for the project’s potential.

4. Use analogous exemplars to inspire the initiative

Help build momentum early on by adopting best practices of how other companies spearhead innovation. Especially in early stages, this helps bring the project to life, while setting high standards. For Gatorade’s ecosystem, the pool of exemplars included companies as varied as Peloton, 23andMe, NikeID, and Strava.

5. Redefine how innovation ROI is measured

Think beyond just revenue and profit when defining which KPIs measure innovation’s impact on your business. Gatorade estimates the Gx ecosystem earned over $50 million in earned media coverage alone. The collaboration with professional sports team also elevated the brand’s innovation credentials and opened the door to new business partners and tech incubation opportunities that simply did not exist previously.

“The innovation process can take months, even years. Celebrating wins along the way isn’t premature, it’s crucial to build excitement and momentum.”

Xavi Cortadellas
Head of Design & Innovation at Gatorade

What’s your next innovation leap? Send us a note.

And for more information on Smart events like this, sign up for our newsletter.