Building an innovation team can save your business, but only if you invest out and in-house as well.

There is no putting your head down while swimming in the constant changing tides of business innovation. That moment you put your head down to zero in on growing what you’ve already built, is the moment you get left behind. As you tread water and look around, you’ll realize everything has changed… without you, and you are sitting in a position of either being or drowning and becoming obsolete. To avoid being left behind by innovation, you have two options. The first option is to build an in-house innovation team and the second option is to bring in outside help when you are in need of direction. I am going to break down the options and explain why you actually need both.

First, Let’s Talk About Internal Innovation Teams

It’s not a new concept that people are where the money is and retaining the people you need on your team makes a world of difference. That’s why marketing firms like Moxie are getting (very) creative with how they entice their teams to go all in. Take their innovation lab, for example. Granted, they are a marketing company, but that hasn’t stopped them from building an Innovation Lab full of cool tech that would make the teams at Google drool a little bit. They’ve injected their business with creativity, energy, and future possibilities. Along with the lab, they’ve been working on integrating an AI Robot. Not only to see how the tech improves their work environment, but also to be better informed and equipped to know how to tap into the pain points or fun/fascination to develop more insightful brands. The value added to their organization from the experience alone is contributing to their cultural foundation of growth and forward thinking.

Given the change in employee retention they are seeing, I’d say they are on the right path. “Moxie has definitely seen an improvement in churn rate/retention, but several factors have led to that upturn. It’s safe to say that our Innovation Lab has played a role — along with new leadership, better morale over a string of new business wins, and increased engagement with the build-out of our modern marketing solutions. Since 2015, Moxie employee turnover has decreased more that 20%.”

Get an External Life Jacket

Both options have their advantages, as well as their disadvantages. Think about it this way; whenever you go boating, you wear a life jacket. Not because you don’t know how to swim, rather because you can’t always predict the water and the life jacket is your second option, your back-up, your potential life-saver, should the water take on new life. Imagine the industry your business exists within is the water, and your in-house team the hours and hours you’ve spent perfecting your doggie paddle. The outside consultants you bring in from time to time are your life jacket.

There Are Risks To Only Implementing One Team

For this reason, I advocate for both. Oversight can kill your business so it’s important to implement a two-step innovation process. The first step being where you build an internal DNA, a culture, that has the freedom to be constantly growing and creating, and the second step being occasionally investing in an external team to come in and build upon everything you internal team has created. By studying market trends, looking at technology, scouting the market, making sure there are no gaps or huge pieces of the puzzle your internal team is missing.

The risks of only in-house would be:

  • A lot of tunnel vision (A LOT)
  • The creation of “know-it-alls and know-betters” instead of continual learners

The risks of only bringing in outsiders might be:

  • Sales bias – “Hire Me because I am such an expert” type attitudes
  • One size fits all type of mindset, rather than customized strategies

How Do You Know Where To Look For Outside Help?

My consulting company offers ‘rent our brain’ hourly and day sessions and so do many other firms. There are marketing companies that have advanced research departmentslike Moxie. Spend your dollars on the much-needed marketing and get innovation help at the same time. Or bring an innovation expert onto your board of advisors. Companies like The Exec Ranks help to match start-ups and growth phase businesses with experienced executives that have been there and done that in your tech or product category. They even offer Advisory Council Roundtable Discussions on topics like Product Development and Technology.

Diversity In Knowledge Will Keep You Moving Forward

Keeping one foot in today and the other in the future can be tricky to balance, and you may not always get it right. But if you are consistently working at it, you’ll already be swimming miles ahead of a lot of companies. Diversity in knowledge only contributes to growth.

Read the original INC article published on February 22, 2017.