The Essential Connection Between Strategy and Innovation

Most organizations are seeking solutions to the necessary connections between Strategy and Innovation. The connection between the two are often broken.

Often it is within the strategies that should be outlined, lies the potential new spaces to play for innovation’s design. Yet how often do we fail to connect the innovation’s we design and execute specifically aligned to the strategic need?

We somehow seem to stay locked in the ‘here and now’ constantly repeating and refining the known and established within our domain of responsibility. Is this because innovation is not at the core of the business as it should be? Often we are inherently resisting to exploring change as it becomes risky and far more demanding. A good strategy, well outlined should encourage innovation and gain engagement but it can equally determine how we break down our imposed boundaries by its strategic intent, to encourage exploring and extending on what we know into the what we need to know. Strategic intent informs innovation.

If you have a clear strategic understanding of the needs of the business you are getting more of the understanding of where-to-play and how-to-win in your innovation activities and market investment. It is making these strategic connections that is giving innovators a better chance to deliver back concepts that offer alignment to this strategic need. Investing in this understanding and alignment should never be understated. The time invested, allows for the innovation investments to do their part in supporting the business and feeding it with the growth options required, or highlighting where the possible gaps might be, for additional investment or M&A activity, to accelerate this and bring-in fresh innovating momentum.

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Making a compelling business case for an integrated innovation framework

How do we manage future discussionsAs innovation becomes a more consistent requirement rather than an occasional exercise, it must align to strategic goals and become part of the planning and execution cycle in more aligned ways.  

An increased focus on innovation as a consistent discipline requires significant reflection on what needs changing, what impact this change will have and how do we proceed to implement it. This requires senior management attention because of the significant organisational impact.

The leadership within an organisation provide the linkage into the strategy, provide the framework and set this in the context of the vision and goals needed to be achieved. You, as the innovator, seek out the synergies between strategy and innovation, between innovation and capabilities, between culture, the environment, the process, structure and routines and how it all should be governed.

The compelling value is in having an integrated innovation framework

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I keep arguing we all need to seek out innovation alignment

Innovation needsAll too often strategy is not influencing the behaviours and outcomes around innovation, it is simply allowing them to be left to chance.

Innovation is being ‘pushed down’ the organisation for others to interpret and offer their answers. They execute to their own understanding and often the innovations end up as not strategically aligned.

That is plainly wrong, not knowing the strategic objectives it is one of the principle causes of innovation failure and requires fixing.

This poor strategic understanding creates a lack of alignment and directing innovation. If an organisation lacks top leadership engagement it becomes, for many, the reason why they seem to just simply ‘limp’ along in their innovation activity, delivering ‘simply’ incremental outcomes. The more radical innovations can never emerge if these do not have the close alignment to the Corporate vision or objectives and leadership engagement..

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Closing the innovation leadership gap

Closing the Innovation Leadership GapWe cannot get away from the reality that in most of our organizations we have a disconnect going on around innovation.

Research shows a lack of engagement around innovation by non-managers, also there are claims through studies that 7 out of 10 of employees do not understand how they can make a worthwhile contribution.

The cynicism around innovation has turned it into nothing more than a buzzword for many, not taken with the seriousness that it really deserves for sustaining growth within organizations and achieving broader engagement to make this happen.

Innovation is treated as more the opportunity taken when it fits and works, often toned down when it does not. There is often a total lack of sustaining strategic commitment to innovation.It is just not integrated into the core of the organization.

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Building an innovation framework that has real capabilities at its heart.

SCA FormulaI’ve strongly believed when you begin to think through a framework for innovation, see my last article as an example, you also should equally need to recognize the capability framework that you will need to build into this.

Working through these as essential combinations can become the real enabler.

Here is my solution that I think is worth working through, to firstly absorb and then consider for applying to your own innovation building activity. Try it!

I have worked on a formula SCA = II + OC + EE + MLC + RNE for this. I have never published the make-up of this in the public domain before, although I had briefly outlined it in a past post here. In that post I outline my thinking and I do not think it needs repeating, does it?

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Are we moving towards integrated software for innovation management?

Software innovationWhat is striking me recently is the upsurge in the software being specifically designed for managing innovation. The competition seems to be warming up in the more ‘standalone’ out-of-the box segment and the innovation tools being provided are certainly accelerating the innovation process.

The software being provided is going well beyond the simply mining and capturing of promising ideas. The solutions are moving into sound idea enrichment, evaluation processes and managing a portfolio of innovation in more holistic ways.

The providers here, namely Hype, Brightidea, Spigit, Imaginatik and a growing group of others have been significantly improving their ‘front end’ offerings to capture and develop concepts- They are increasingly turning their attentions to the ‘back end’ and support with greater focuses on governance, knowledge repositories, campaign cockpits, evaluation and dialogue exchange mechanisms. Mobility has also been a growing feature to capture innovation ‘on the go’.

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The role senior executives must fill for innovation success

Executive need to engage for innovation 1Jeffrey Phillips of Ovo Innovation and I wrote a White Paper, we called our foundation document, on “Accelerating or inhibiting innovation – understand your role for innovation success”. You can read the full paper here

We strongly believe there is a real Innovation leadership gap

My last article “Developing talent to drive innovation” was questioning the spending of new funds on developing talent for innovation, unless the organization and its leadership is not clear on what it is specifically looking for, or how it is prepared to back their words with specific actions beyond ‘just’ new funding levels, then this might not be money well spent.

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