Designing an innovation strategy that works

I am surprised at how many leaders do not have an innovation strategy. This is particularly curious when the same leaders often rank innovation as one of their top three priorities.

But what does an innovation strategy look like?

From my experience it should answer three questions:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How do we want to get there?

The emphasis for me should be on the last two questions because these are the ones that you can most influence.

In the “where are we now?” stage a leadership team should answer these questions:

  • What does innovation mean at our business?
  • How can we measure it?
  • Do we want continuous or game-changing innovation?
  • What is our “why innovate story?”

In addition, I have found it valuable to have the leaders complete a quick innovation SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

In the “where do we want to go” step the senior managers need to articulate a clear and compelling innovation vision. In a recent workshop with a non-profit organisation for example, their goal was to become the most innovative organisation in the non-profit sector within three years.

With an ambitious and dare I say it a creative goal in place it is easier to develop a plan to get there (ie. the “how do we get there?” step). In the case of the non-profit organisation this consisted of a series of innovation days, training the staff in a new, group problem-solving and idea generation tool called Blitz and a new recognition program.

If innovation is important then leaders can manage the process by which it occurs. There are no guarantees but they can dramatically improve their chances of success though a well-thought out and well-communicated innovation strategy.


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