Al Capone and
Enterprise Innovation

Greg Larkin /

Anyone trying to build an innovative product in a mature company will have inevitably had that C-suite meeting in which you’re told “let’s hold off,” “we’re already doing that,” “speak to Tom first,” or “this is shit.”

And if if you haven’t heard that yet then you haven’t really started innovating.

Enterprise innovation teams often repurpose the same tools that catalyze growth in startups without adapting them to a corporate culture which fears change and rewards predictability. And no amount of design thinking or agile doing will break through this enterprise wall of intransigence.

Enterprise innovation teams often repurpose startup innovation tools without adapting them to a corporate culture which fears change and rewards predictability.

For that you need your Innovation Godfather.

In every company there is a deeply feared and highly respected executive who fears extinction more than he fears change. Everyone in the firm owes him something – either because he mentored them, promoted them, or because he could destroy them. The Godfather is determined to leave a legacy of bringing the organization into the age of modernity. He also is terrified that without it he will be remembered like the executives at Nokia and Blockbuster who captained their respective ships into extinction.

For every enterprise innovation team it is mission critical to make it easy for the Godfather to fight and win for you. In the same way that you should accelerate user validation each week you should also empower your Godfather to double the number of C-suite advocates.

This means that every sprint should be equal parts user stories and Godfather stories. You should develop stakeholder personas and success criteria with your Godfather in the same way that you would develop user personas.

Without a Godfather enterprise innovation either gets shut down or quarantined to a non-threatening and irrelevant corner. Your efforts will not protect you once a lean, hungry startup begins stealing market share.

So once you find your Godfather make them an offer they can’t refuse.