Following last week’s article on the importance of aligning innovation with strategy, we will be now looking at how this can be done in practice. As a reminder of the importance of aligning both aspects, the article title “You Need an Innovation Strategy” by Gary P. Pisano published on the HBR summarises it very well, particularly the following paragraph:
“ (…) without an innovation strategy, different parts of an organisation can easily wind up pursuing conflicting priorities—even if there’s a clear business strategy. Sales representatives hear daily about the pressing needs of the biggest customers. Marketing may see opportunities to leverage the brand through complementary products or to expand market share through new distribution channels. Business unit heads are focused on their target markets and their particular P&L pressures. R&D scientists and engineers tend to see opportunities in new technologies. Diverse perspectives are critical to successful innovation. But without a strategy to integrate and align those perspectives around common priorities, the power of diversity is blunted or, worse, becomes self-defeating.”
It is then, necessary to come up with an innovation strategy. So, how can you do it?
Firstly, you’ll have to define clearly what is the desired outcome, what it is that you want to get from your innovation efforts. Do you want to:
- Develop a new product?
- Protect or expand your market share?
- Sell or licence your company/product to another organisation?
- Create greater staff retention?
- Improve operational efficiency?
- Increase recognition in the marketplace?
These are all questions that should be carefully considered before moving forward. Once you have made a decision of what is most important for you and your organisation, you’ll then need to take steps towards putting an innovation strategy plan in place. To develop an innovation strategy there are a few points that need to be considered, as these will set the direction for the innovation execution and will enable everyone in the organisation to “sing from the same hymn sheet”, so to speak:
- An innovation strategy needs to be inspiring and communicate the organisation’s vision clearly.
- Needs ambitious objectives that will make an organisation stand out from the competition and have a real competitive advantage.
- The development process needs to be open and take different visions into consideration.
- The innovation strategy must be time specific – meaning that it should be done specially for the period of time in which it was developed so that any gaps can be closed
- That being said, the strategy also needs to be flexible, to allow tweaks and updates over time.
- The innovation strategy needs to ultimately tie in with the overall business strategy to ensure that you’re working towards the same objectives.
These are only, of course, just a few ideas to inspire and give you a starting point. However, the importance of dedicating some time and effort to getting an innovation strategy right from the start will pay off in the end.