How to become an innovator in 3 months

When I was 7 years old and adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer with: “baseball player and veterinarian.” Because why do you have to be just one thing? Even Kris Bryant knows you can’t play baseball forever. My career plans changed many times since I was that ambitious little girl. I wanted to be: a journalist, a radio show host, a business owner, a fashion buyer, and finally, a marketer.

Earlier this year, I decided to pivot my career once again and be an innovator.

I was able to pursue this dream thanks to Citrix involvement with the Innovator’s Program. This quarter-long program is a local startup accelerator where “intrapreneurs” like me work on bringing their ideas to life alongside entrepreneurs who are trying to get their businesses off the ground. This is all done with guidance from experienced mentors and coaches.

What’s an “intrapreneur”?

The Innovator’s Program’s intrapreneurial teams are charged with solving an in-house problem, disrupting the current product, or exploring new growth areas. From the beginning of the program in July, our ultimate goal was clear: Gather solid evidence to advance our idea to a strong growth signal for Citrix in just 3 months.

Why would a big corporation like Citrix want to breed innovators? Some may say it is risky to set employees up for success outside of the organization. But enterprise companies are grappling with the fact that they are not only competing with each other anymore. They are also competing with the hundreds of startups that offer similar solutions. Companies need that entrepreneurial mindset to protect themselves from market disruption and lay a path for long-term, sustainable growth. And the employees benefit from invaluable career development as well as a strengthened bond with customers.

Plus, here in the ShareFile division, entrepreneurship is in our blood! We were founded in Jesse Lipson’s kitchen more than a decade ago. Much of our growth is attributed to Jesse’s lasting legacy of customer-driven innovation.

And what does customer-driven innovation mean?

Innovator’s Program teams practice Lean Startup principles. First state your hypothesis and then do the customer research up front without a whole lot of expensive resources. No need for a fancy business plan or fully functioning prototype to prove that your idea is worthy.

My team, ShareFile Voice, started the program with the assumption that real estate professionals would be our target customer. We invited them to our office for interviews so we could demo our concept. After the first five interviews, we could already see a pattern telling us to pivot. Our idea was not meant for real estate folks!

Pivot. There’s that word again!

So we pivoted. We took a step back to get a bird’s eye of our product/market fit and broadened our interviewees. By early October, we had interviewed, tested, and received feedback from dozens of qualified customers and actually got traction. This authentic traction happens when you identify the customer’s pain point and provide a solution that they want to use right now.

Start innovating today!

Graduating from this program made me realize that it doesn’t matter if you’re a one-woman shop or a 10,000-employee company… innovation starts with the customer.

How does your business flex its innovation muscle? Tweet us your ideas or tips with us!

Check out all of the 2017 Innovator’s Program teams

ShareFile Voice | Office Manager | SmartFile | Cura Smart Pillbox | Allstacks | VitalFlo | CivicRise