The Sleeper Agents of Innovation

Your industry?    It’s in trouble.  Your most experienced execs can’t stop the bleeding and they’re jumping ship—or you’re having to throw them over the side to save money.

Yet, somewhere deep within the halls of your enterprise, you have bright young talent that was once really motivated.  Corporate bureaucracy, reluctance to take risks, lack of innovation and protectionism have beaten down their morale—and frankly, your earnings.

They have answers, ideas, and maybe… just maybe… plans.  Will they be plans for your resume or your demise?  It depends whether you can find these “sleeper agents of innovation” before they jump ship and start their own thing.

I had an e-mail exchange with this one young guy last night:

“Career-wise, I could go on and on about my dream job, about everything I've done for my current business and how big, broke and shockingly bureaucratic it is…

I actually make less money (as does everyone else on staff) now than I did when I started there…”

When I asked how they’d change their business—a media company—here’s what I got:

“User-submission driven, editorially curated. Why pay writers when people will pen anything they want for free?  But, unlike Yelp, you need an editor there to highlight the quality content.

[Our company] has a phenomenal brand, but…  it has made no effort to seek out what's new and what's hot as a brand.

We finally put together a platform to monetize our social media and we’re selling now…but it took me years to get this far, and it's nothing special or new…

Can you sense my frustration?

What I would do is launch some combination of a) a voice (hire one blogger, done.) paired with b) user-submitted content and c) a few editors to curate.

I mean, the Huffington Post has idiots submitted free writing who brag that they are Huffington Post columnists. They wrote for free! Why are they bragging about that? Because of the keen editorial illusion. Keep that up and make the process feel as though, unlike Yelp, everything has been approved by a smarter higher power, and you've got people lining up to get their content and brands on your site.”

So why not start something on your own?

“Yeah, but I don't have the money to do this. So if the company bombed—well, it couldn't. You need money for a company. And it
wouldn't bomb. I have the right people and the right connections. The
only issue would be getting ad dollars thrown at a new brand. But if
you bring over your ad sales people... you bring over their media
buyers.”

HuffPo has 10 million uniques a month.  Someone is going to hand this guy some cash one day and I have no doubt he’ll build the HuffPo for this vertical, which is huge. 

The Red Sox had Babe Ruth.  The Mets had Nolan Ryan.   Who do you have deep within your organization’s junior ranks and what are they planning?