5 Steps to Create Your Innovation Strategy
While most organizations boast a well-articulated strategy, the world of innovation strategy remains, ironically, less explored. But in a world that pivots as quickly as it turns, having a robust innovation strategy isn't just 'nice-to-have' - it's essential. So, let's dive deep and by the end of this post, you'll have the tools you need to create a compelling first draft of the stragegy in just a few hours.
Corporate vs. Innovation Strategy: Two Docs with One Goals
Picture corporate strategy as the space shuttle and innovation strategy as the rocket boosters that help get the shuttle into orbit. Your innovation strategy must be aligned with the broader corporate strategy, outlining how novel ideas will bolster strategic aims. It's less about reinventing the wheel and more about ensuring the wheel spins faster and smoother.
And remember those companies that were successful during the pandemic? They demonstrated why innovation isn't just about coming up with good ideas, but about bringing fresh, effective solutions to market as fast as humanly possible.
Crafting Your Innovation Strategy: A Guided Walkthrough
Before you begin, make sure you really immerse yourself in the corporate strategy. Your innovation strategy should feel like an extension of what already exists, naming specific strategy initiatives and borrowing the corporate strategy lingo wherever possible.
Now that you're ready, answer these five questions to quickly develop your MVP of your innovation strategy.
The Purpose: What strategy-aligned problem is your innovation function trying to solve? Begin by pinpointing the strategic-aligned challenge your innovation seeks to address. Start with a holistic scan of the future (hello, PEST analysis) and an operational overview. Remember, your innovation strategy should act as the booster, propelling corporate goals into orbit.
The Approach: What's the innovation function's theory of change? Time to get philosophical - what's your innovation function's raison d'être (reason for being)? Amidst your available resources and operational realities, define how your innovation will carve a difference. Nail this down early... a fabulous strategy with no roots in reality is easy for detractors to knock over.
Focus Areas: Where will you focus your attention? Every organization is a complex tapestry of functions, from R&D to culture curation. Pinpoint where your influence will ripple the most significant waves of positive change. Your focus can also include classic innovation frameworks (3 horizons, the innovation matrix) to help you decide how adventurous or conservative your innovation program will be.
Process: How will we advance and test ideas? Chart your innovation journey. Detail the mechanisms for idea generation, evaluation, testing, and the pivotal 'go/no-go' decisions. A lot swear by the stage-gate process – where ideas undergo rigorous checks before proceeding. As you map out, ensure you've got key players involved, especially that executive champion. After all, innovation should echo in boardrooms as much as the staff conference rooms.
Portfolio: How will you pull these answers together to create one cohesive approach to managing innovation? Think of this as your innovation storyboard on a single slide. Visualize your focus areas, set measurable goals, and anticipate the business impact-related goals you'd like to achieve (like targeting a 10% revenue boost from innovation-led products in two years). This is also where the conversation around the innovation budget might tiptoe in.
And just like that, you've got a pretty good MVP of your innovation strategy. Unlike corporate strategy, the innovation strategy will likely have a much smaller audience. So putting in a massive amount of polish could be a waste of time. Ditch the quest for perfection and glossy slides. Let your innovation strategy be a hypothesis you test with partners and decision makers and leverage their feedback to refine your thinking.
After all, your innovation strategy is more than a document - it's your well researched thesis on how those lofty goals in the corporate strategy might actually be achieved.
Edwin Goutier is the CEO of LaunchPath, an innovation management software company with the world's first nonprofit social innovation platform. Prior to leading LaunchPath, he served as Vice President of Innovation for United Way Worldwide. Edwin is a skilled product manager, innovation consultant, and strategy nerd passionate about the power of local solutions to address community issues. He has been honored as an Okta Nonprofit Technology Fellow, a member of Leadership Alexandria, and led the charge for United Way's inclusion in Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies list.