Drawing out the different voices within the three horizon methodology for Innovation

Three Growth HorizonsWe so often struggle to articulate our innovation activity and then can’t seemingly project our plans into the future in consistent and coherent ways. We often lack the framing necessary.

If this rings true of the innovation activity in your organization, then it is in danger of being seen as isolated, one-off events, that fail to link to your organizational strategy. Furthermore you’ll be missing out, or not capitalizing on emerging trends and insights where fresh growth opportunities reside.

I so often come back to the messages we need to learn, which centers around the three horizon methodology.

I just wish this framework would be adopted far more within organizations. wanting to build a sustaining dialogue around innovation, it can be such a powerful enabler.

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Traversing different horizons for transformative innovation

Irrespective of the organization, we all struggle with transformational innovation. So often we are simply comfortable in our ‘business as usual’. We gear performance to the short-term, we put the emphasis on the current fiscal year, and we support the core business in numerous ways, usually with lots and lots of incremental innovation, so the results are realizable in this year.

We are sometimes comfortable or confident enough to move into adjacent areas, to expand and feed off the core but these are less than transformational in most cases. This space is the one we are the most comfortable to work within, this is the horizon one of the three horizon model approach outlined to manage innovation across a more balanced portfolio of investment.

In summary, the three horizon model for innovation is actually a reasonably simple idea: with Horizon One (h1) being the current business focus, Horizon Two (h2) being more the related emerging business opportunities and Horizon Three (h3) being those that are moving towards a completely new business that can have the potential to disrupt the existing one.

The complexity lies underneath this simple idea, you need to manage these different horizons with completely different mindsets. You need clear well-structured ways to extract the real return from managing a comprehensive innovation portfolio based on knowledge, experience, intelligence but exploring plenty of the unknowns about the future and openness to get you there, as ready as you can be . Its necessary today.

The seeds of destruction lie in horizon one

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Mapping innovation across the three horizons

One of my most exciting areas within my innovation activities is applying the three horizon methodology, for working through the ‘appropriate’ lenses for different innovations and their future management. Let me outline the rationale for adopting this within your organization.

Clarifying our options requires multiple thinking horizons

For me, the three horizons have great value to map different thinking and possible innovation options over changing horizons. You can frame innovation in alternative ways by using this approach. Innovation has multiple evolution points and working with this framework allows you to significantly improve innovations contribution.

It goes well beyond the present value of ‘just’ fitting your existing innovation portfolio and directional management into a one dimensional, viewed in the present, framework. You can see opportunities completely differently beyond the existing mindset and activities, it takes innovation from tactical to strategic, to foresight in your evaluations.

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