The 4 Ps: Create a Support Network for your Innovation Project

Photo by cobalt123

Photo by cobalt123

Change management can be hairy. It’s riddled with emotions, complexities, constraints, and prejudices. Sometimes it’s all you can do not to bury your head in your hands and pray for a fairy godmother. So it’s no wonder why a light, straightforward tool — a lifeline out of the quicksand — would be so popular.

There are more change management tools than I can count, but one of my very favorites is William Bridges’ 4 Ps. It’s stellar for times when a change is decided upon and moving ahead, but it’s also perfect for innovation projects, when you’re still on the steep end of the learning curve. Below are my adaptations to Bridges’ tool which would start to answer some of the following questions: 

  • How do I engage my steering committee or board in an innovation project?
  • How do I engage relevant stakeholders throughout the organization? 
  • How do I engage the business unit which might adopt the innovation project in the near future? 

Purpose: Tell your audience about the need you’re solving for with your new product or service. Whose life will it improve? What frustrations is that user feeling now? How will it make the world a better place? The more you can help your audience empathize with the pain of potential users, the more likely they will be inspired to join your cause.

Picture: You may not know yet the details of how your product or service will look, and that’s okay. In fact, overconfidence and “selling” your idea can breed skepticism when what you really want is interest in exploration. A great way to engender that interest is through low-fidelity storyboards: you want the storyboard to bring the innovation concept to life by depicting how a user would interact with it, but you also want it to be clear that this is a sketch to be played with. Use simple drawings on paper and have lots of sharpies on hand. Encourage your audience to write question marks next to what they’re unsure about and highlight things they love. Don’t guarantee changes, but do assure them you're genuinely interested in their POV. “Not invented here” syndrome melts away as they start to feel that they are part of the creation process.

Plan: For a decided-upon change, this P represents the steps the organization will take to get from point A to B, with the unit of measurement being progress towards the end state. In an innovation project, this P represents the steps the organization will take to get from high-risk, low initial investment to low-risk and high investment, with the unit of measurement being learning. Share what experiments you will conduct to test the assumptions you hold around your innovation and what you expect to learn. Most people find discomfort in change not because they don’t see the end state, but because they don’t see the plan to get there. 

Part to Play: Innovation projects can quickly stagnate if you don’t have an ecosystem of stakeholders empowered to see it through. Let people know how they can be a part of the innovation process. Maybe you want them to be a champion of the project by telling two of their key contacts in the organization about it. Maybe you want them to attend working sessions once in a while to offer a fresh perspective. Maybe they can help craft communications about the project if they know what language will work best with particular departments. Whatever it is, let them know that you value whatever contribution they can make.

Do you have any tips for engendering support for an innovation project? Leave some wisdom in the comments section below.

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