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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Balancing Our Innovation Understanding

Balancing the equationRecently I have been hearing of a lot about different innovation equations that will deliver the value on the efforts you put in.

I think the activity behind all of this is actually very encouraging, it shows the current dissatisfaction with what we have and the quest for providing a formula for overcoming this ‘present state’.

I think they are all contributing to a promising future. Yet we need to consider the balance within any innovation understanding or equation to derive its real value.

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One really big issue is aligning strategy and innovation, right?

Executive Work MatAchieving innovation alignment always needs clear framing.

I would argue most problems or disappointment with our innovation efforts can be attributed to a lack of alignment to the organizations strategy and/or its poor governance with our end results. Here I am suggesting a way to overcome this constant frustration.

Poor strategic alignment can be overcome by working through a comprehensive approach to addressing all areas that impact innovation. One such framework I believe can help, as explained here, through the work mat approach.

I  believe this work mat approach does moderate and organize innovation for greater alignment.  It allows for the senior management to become engaged and shape the direction as it takes a more holistic approach. The work mat contains governance as specifically part of its framing as this can do far more in driving the conditions to innovate.

The intent with developing this work mat approach has been to clearly set out that much-needed ‘greater’ strategic connection through engagement at a senior level, they drive the outcomes, they provide understanding beyond the vision to make the neccesary connections, they fuel the engine and ignite the energy that innovation needs.

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Organizations are in a constant dilemma concerning innovation

Organization's innovation dilemma.The issue of “where does innovation fit?” is one of the most difficult ones to address in many organizations. It seems to fit uncomfortably for many.

At the top of our organizations they ‘require’ innovation but will often not want the potential disruption this might entail.

Yet the organization today is being challenged like never before, it has gone from managing the predictable business to responding to the unpredictable, more opportunistic and alert to change, a place innovation can fit within the need to respond to this different environment.

This is the final post in the series that has focused on the innovation work mat components

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How are you evolving the function and design for innovation?

Organizations are struggling to forge a new path that captures opportunities fast and also exploiting that increasing need of being adaptive and flexible.

They are looking at structures for their innovation activity that are taking a more agile and focused approach, wanting to push for constantly accelerating the process. New practices are emerging.

This is demanding more radical redesigns of the function, processes and structures around innovation. Innovators are being more challenged.

Against this need for new, more radical designs there still lies that underlying concern, often at the top of our organizations, on how to manage innovation risk without significant organization disruption. There is this lingering fear that pushing for more radical innovation can create significant upheaval within the organization. Innovation is being challenged by the view of “we want predictable innovation but radical enough to make sure we grow.

Innovation has to manage within this conflicting message. It is through the well-designed system, processes and function that this can happen but this needs redesigning fairly radically to adjust to today’s world of wanting innovation faster than ever.

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Successful Innovation needs a common language, context and communicating

The story of Babel

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

People disconnect because they lack what is needed to connect!  Innovation thrives from knowledge and you need to make sure this is allowed to flow. To achieve those essential knowledge connections, you need a shared understanding of innovation, that common sense of purpose as a framework. This will though, always stay a work-in-progress.

You need to begin to build a common language of greater understanding. We need to unite around innovation. Imagine if you work consciously to put knowledge in the hands of people willing to make innovation happen, what the potential might be?

Give people the power of the context for their innovation engagement and that shifts everything to give them a clearer shape and meaning. You are laying out the conditions, criteria and circumstances, giving innovation its foundations.

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Measuring and motivating the innovation elephant

Elephant and the blind men 1I often think of the parable of “The Elephant and the Blind Men” when I get into discussions about measuring innovation. What are truths, what are the fallacies?  The parable implies that one’s often subjective experience can be true on your need, but not necessarily the other persons view of their understanding of value.

You get, as the end result, a failure to account for other ‘beliefs’ or capture the real value and miss providing broader motivations to encourage the innovation elephant along.

Establishing the right metrics that motivate and yield the result you are looking for is sometimes a tough challenge. You should always start with the bigger picture, organizational needs and then design the metrics and cascade these throughout the organization.

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