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June 8, 2009

Selling it In: Define, Develop and…Defend!

I’ve got a few issues with innovation processes.  Not because they are not effective in driving go-no-go decisions and speeding time to market.  But because I think they ignore  a critical cause of innovation project failure:  Unsuccessful sell-in to management.  There’s no real prescription for how to do this right.  I’ve seen more than a few solid business cases fall flat with management because the team couldn’t quite motivate and inspire the audience.  But, it’s not the team’s fault.  It’s all in the storytelling.

Many brand design firms like to talk about project “stages”.  They’re often some variation on “Define, Develop and Deliver”.  I would insert one more “D” word–”Defend”–between Define and Develop, as a way to standardize the sell-in process.  Defending a course of action is a key activity, but often the project review presentation is organized by sequential deliverables and their results.  But, a senior audience isn’t inspired by a chronological parade of facts and findings.  They want to visualize the opportunity.  They want to be told an engaging story.  They want to be sold.

A good story vividly demonstrates how key insights surfaced emotional and functional drivers of value for consumers.  And how those drivers were captured in a strategy and then translated into unique and exciting concepts.  Concepts that exceed consumer expectations and are mindful of internal constraints.

So, I’d love to hear about a business case that worried less about the chronology of a project and more about the progression of the thinking.  Just like really smart, intuitive kids,  I’d like to think management’s eyes brighten at the telling of a good story.

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