how to innovate strategically

Innovation is all the rage today for companies from small to large, and rightfully so. Evidence of this pressure to constantly reinvent and innovate: In a study published in 2012, Yale University predicted that more than three quarters of the Fortune 500 in the year 2020 will be companies we have not heard of yet (1). 

The 2014 DMI Design Value index reported that companies who focus on “design as an integrative resource to innovate more efficiently and successfully” have maintained significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 228% over a decade (2).

A Strategic Approach

Those firms that are innovating successfully and winning are those that take a strategic approach to innovation and align it with their business strategy. HBR reported in their June 2015 issue (3) that despite massive investments of management time and money, innovation remains a frustrating pursuit in many companies. Innovation initiatives frequently fail, and successful innovators have a hard time sustaining their performance—as Polaroid, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, and countless others have found.

 Why is it so hard to build and maintain the capacity to innovate? 

The reasons go much deeper than the commonly cited cause: a failure to execute. The problem with innovation improvement efforts is rooted in the lack of an innovation strategy.

Innovation Point, a consultancy, reported in their whitepaper “A Framework for Strategic Innovation” that:

Strategic Innovation takes the road less traveled–it challenges an organization to look beyond its established business boundaries and mental models to participate in an open-minded, creative exploration of the realm of possibilities. Some organizations may feel that seeking breakthrough innovation is too grandiose a goal, and would be content in “simply growing the business.” Experience shows, however, that simply focusing on the short-term yields short-term results–while teams aspiring to seek significant breakthroughs will both identify “big ideas” and also generate “closer in” incremental ideas. Strategic Innovation is not characterized by mundane, incremental product extensions, the “me-too” models of close followers, or band-aids for inefficient processes. It does not consist of simple facilitated creativity sessions or brainstorming new ideas. Instead, it spans a journey of inquiry and activity–from creative inspiration at the ambiguous “fuzzy front end” through the detailed requirements of successful execution that lead to business impact” (4).

How Do I Do It?

The strategic innovation process, as Innovation Point asserts, calls for a holistic approach that operates on multiple levels. First, it blends non-traditional and traditional approaches to business strategy, deploying the practices of “Industry Foresight,” “Consumer/Customer Insight” and “Strategic Alignment” as a foundation, and supplementing them with more conventional approaches and models. Second, it combines two seemingly paradoxical mindsets: expansive, visionary thinking that imaginatively explores long-term possibilities; and pragmatic, down-to-earth implementation activities that lead to short-term, measurable business impact.

And that’s the challenge. It requires different mindsets and different skillsets. Many people who are creative problem solvers and innovators don’t actually realize or even admit that they have a process. The perception is that the ideas flow from intuition. This intuition though is taught over time. It’s learned by following a process, developing skills and practicing that process over and over until that process becomes intuition.

How does a firefighter know to leave a building before it collapses? Intuition. But that firefighter wouldn’t have known that his or her first week on the job. The intuition is gained by learning new skills, being in similar situations and following a process many times over. Once the experienced is gained, the process doesn’t feel like a process—it feels like intuition.

Where Do I Begin?

HBR, in its June 2015 issue (3), asserts that an innovation strategy should answer these questions:

  • How will innovation create value for potential customers?

  • How will the company capture a share of the value that its innovations generate?

  • What types of innovations will allow the company to create and capture value, and what resources should each type receive?

The answers to these questions posed by author Gary P. Pisano, help align business strategy with innovation strategy. Once innovation strategy is aligned, it’s time to execute. Many organizations have a disciplined approach or method or even utilize multiple approaches. Others execute without a disciplined process. No matter where your organization falls on this spectrum, there are four common approaches to innovation that companies utilize. 

Ways To Do It

Many of the most innovative organizations are deploying a combination of methods in order to solve challenges in various ways. The combination of these approaches is a powerful way to maximize the benefits of each.

In order to help think about when and how to take advantage of a specific method, we’ve outlined the four broad innovation approaches in use today: Lean Startup, Design-Driven, Open Innovation and Crowdsourced Idea Management.

Download Batterii’s How to Innovate...Strategically Paper to uncover:

  • When each approach is best used
  • The benefits and cultural impact of each approach
  • The limitations and challenges for your brand in implementing each method
  • The tools to help guide you as you jump-start your innovation journey

Download the Paper

References

  1. Gittleson, Kim. “Can a Company Live Forever?” BBC News. bbc.com, 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.
  1. Rae, Jeneanne, and Michael Westcott. “Design-Driven Companies Outperform S&P by 228% Over Ten Years - The ‘DMI Design Value Index’ - Design Management Institute.” Design Management Institute & Motiv, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.
  1. Pisano, Gary P. “You Need an Innovation Strategy.” Innovation. Harvard Business Review, 1 June 2015. Web. 1 Sept. 2015. 
  1. Palmer, Derrick, and Soren Kaplan. “A Framework for Strategic Innovation.” InnovationPoint LLC. Innovation-Point.com. Web. 1 Sept. 2015.

The Batterii Team

Batterii is a platform designed to help cross-functional teams collaborate through the front end of the design process. The Batterii Team is made up of designers, user experience experts and developers all working to deliver a product that is used by industry leaders in CPG, Pharma, Automotive and Apparel.