Interview with Denis Balaguer, Director of BeyondLabs & wavespace operations in Latin America South for EY.
Think of a start-up with three founders in a garage. You do not have to try hard to imagine them having a focus on innovation and disruption. They have reached – and surpassed – the critical mass of innovators needed to have a sustainable innovation culture because 100% of the people in the company are focused on innovation.
Now think of a company with almost 300,000 (!) people. How do you make sure that innovation is still thriving? How do you reach Critical Mass of innovators? That is the kind of question that Denis Balaguer works with. Denis leads the BeyondLabs innovation program and the wavespace operations in Latin America South for EY, and he is a key leader of the firm’s digital and innovation evangelization agenda, internally and externally. EY, of course, is the leading professional services firm with operations in 44 countries and close to 300,000 people around the world, and something like 12,000 just in Latin America.
For him, one of the most important tasks is to enable people to innovate more and better. To help craft a culture where people both improve on current processes and develop new products and services to disrupt the industry and advance new frontiers.
According to Denis, Critical Innovation Mass is reached when an organization has reached a state of excitement around innovation that is enough to have an innovation culture that is self-sustained. This is a high bar to reach, as many people – perhaps even most people – actually find it hard to change.
Denis says, “My job is to make people understand what innovation is, how they can innovate, and how they can create the space for others to innovate. We work to get people to understand that what got EY to be this old and this big is our ability to change.”
Denis and his team, of course, use a multitude of tools and techniques to make this happen. Everything from innovation software and creativity training down to stickers on people’s computers encouraging innovation.
For Denis, as for many other people working with innovation in large organizations, one of the biggest challenges is getting the message out to all the people in the organization.
Denis estimates that he directly reaches between 3,000-5,000 people in the EY Latin America organization each year. Out of those 3,000-5,000, perhaps 200 are very active innovation ambassadors, but most get more sporadic communication around the company’s innovation ambitions.
Denis shared with me that it’s crucial that the communication that does reach the masses is the right one – which brings us to the idea of “CIM – Critical Innovation Message”.
The Critical Innovation Message is the message around innovation that the organization needs to hear at this specific moment.
Many innovation leaders will send out newsletters and other communication around innovation without considering CIM. Then the audience just gets what seems to them to be random innovation messages.
But if the leadership instead sits down and analyzes what the most important messages around innovation would be for the organization at this moment, then the benefit is greater. There is just a bigger chance that the message will be received.
EY Latin America South has gone through different CIM over the last few years. First, it was the message of encouraging a more creative mindset and a more open mind. Then the message changed into being more about specifically getting people interested in the potential of new technology. After that, the message changed to be more about the importance of involving clients in the innovation process, and so on.
The Critical Innovation Message needs to be crafted so that it both pushes people in the direction that they need to go at the moment, but at the same time is written in such a way that the people want (!) to go in that direction. The message has to be both right for the organization and meaningful for the people in it.
If the message is not right for the organization, it derails from the strategy. If the message is not meaningful, it will not take hold with the people.
The more you reflect on the concept of CIM, you can easily come to the conclusion that nothing is more important. Because an organization that is lacking clear communication around how and what to innovate around right now is lost.
Denis agrees, “That you communicate the right innovation message at the right time is essential.”
What is the Critical Innovation Message that your organization needs to hear right now? How do you need to craft it so that it takes hold?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
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