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Developing an innovation strategy
They’re many different types of innovation and the type of innovation will be determined by your innovation strategy. Your innovation strategy is in-turn determined by the growth phase of your company, where it is heading and the desired outcome of the innovation.
The Growth Phases of your company
When you’re partnering with us, we can guide you in developing an actionable plan, drive adoption and awareness at all levels, and create a strategy for measuring the impact of change – internally and externally.
It is a framework to think about growth in a way that balances the competing demands of focusing on the present while investing for the future. No giant leaps but incremental steps in growing your business!
Simply, it is about extending and defending your core business. The focus is on operational improvements for short-term performance.
Parallel, it is about bringing ideas to fruition and building, emerging businesses while creating options for future businesses.
Your horizons
As your business grows, you will need to extend and defend your core business from competitors. However, as more competitors enter the market, you will need to look for alternate business opportunities. Finally, you will need to establish an environment where ideas are nurtured for future business development. The horizons are repeated over time as your future business options become, core businesses.
The stage of your business will affect your ability to achieve your desired outcome. For example, you may wish to create a research and development section in your company to generate new ideas for the future. However the current culture is focused on operation improvements to the core business. It will take significant resources and time to develop an environment that will foster research and development within your company. Therefore your innovation strategy should take into account what phase of growth, you are in and where you are heading.
Desired Outcome
Your innovation strategy is determined by what you want to achieve from the innovation process. Whether that be;
Develop a new product – you may see an opportunity for a radical change in the type of products currently offered on the market.
Protect market share – in a dynamic global environment continuous innovation is required in many instances just to maintain market share.
Expand market share – you may want to expand market share through e.g., offering existing products in a different market.
Sell or license to another organization – you may be looking at an exit strategy whereby once the innovation is developed you do not have the capabilities or resources to gain full value from the innovation and seek to sell or license the innovation.
Create greater staff retention – a commitment to innovation can motivate and retain skilled staff through providing staff with a challenging and creative environment.
Improve operational efficiency – you may wish to reduce costs through streamlining your operations.
Increased recognition in the marketplace – you may wish to increase your profile in the marketplace through an innovative marketing strategy.
Level of risk you attribute
The type of innovation and the level of risk you attribute to that innovation will vary depending on whether you are seeking to double your business or maintain your current level of revenue or profit. Your company may, in-fact pursue multiple outcomes and therefore will require multiple strategies.
Once you have determined your intended outcome and how this fits within the growth phase of your company, start to think about the type of innovation strategy that will achieve your outcome.
Companies rarely comply with ideal types of innovation strategy. However, the ideal types of innovation strategies can provide a starting point for the development of your innovation strategy. The ideal types of innovation strategy can be classed as proactive, active, reactive and passive.
Proactive - Companies with proactive innovation strategies tend to have strong research orientation; they will often have first-mover advantage and be a technology market leader. These companies access knowledge from a broad range of sources and take big bets/high risks. Companies like Dupont, Apple and Disney have proactive innovation strategies. The types of technological innovation used in a proactive innovation strategy are radical and incremental. Radical innovations are breakthroughs that change the nature of products and services. Incremental innovation is the constant technological or process changes that lead to improve performance of products and services.
Active - An active innovation strategy involves defending, existing technologies and markets but with the preparedness to respond quickly once markets and technologies are proven. These companies have mainly incremental innovation within-house applied R & D. Companies with active innovation strategies also have broad sources of knowledge and have medium to low risk exposure. They tend to hedge their bets and include companies such as Microsoft, Dell and British Airways.
Reactive - The reactive innovation strategy is used by companies that are followers and have a focus on operations, have a wait and see approach and look for low-risk opportunities. They will copy a proven innovation. Companies with reactive innovation strategies use entirely incremental innovators and include budget airlines such as Ryanair that has successfully copied, the no frills service model of Southwest Airlines.
Passive - Companies with passive innovation strategies wait until their customers demand a change in their products or services. Many of the companies that supply to automotive companies have passive innovation strategies as they wait for the automotive companies to demand changes to specification before implementing these changes.
Where do you situate your company?
You must not forget to include in your strategy, the development of an environment/culture that will foster innovation. You will need to focus on integrating innovation into business objectives, taking a holistic approach to innovation, establishing strong channels of communication and furthermost, developing an environment of trust.
Integrate Innovation Into Business Objectives
Inhibition of innovation commonly occurs where executives' pay lip service to innovation but do nothing about it. For an innovation strategy to be effective, there needs to be the integration of innovation into senior leaders' agenda. By developing performance metrics and targets for innovation senior management integrate innovation into their normal pattern of business. This routine also creates an environment where managers and floor staff are comfortable with innovating, thereby making better use of an existing talent for innovation.
Taking a Comprehensive Approach to Innovation
Innovation is not resigned to just product development but can be in process improvement, organizational structure, business model and marketing. Look to the overall organization and to stakeholders such as suppliers and clients when developing your innovation strategy. Bring in different departments into the innovation process and create strong communication channels throughout the organization and beyond. Look at your skills and the skills of your staff.
Can more effective teams be developed through combing right brain (imaginative) and left brain (logical) people together to create a team that can better achieve the company's strategy?
Establishing strong channels of communication
An organizations' formal and informal communication networks will determine its innovation effectiveness. Effective networks allow people with different kinds of knowledge and ways of tackling problems to cross-fertilize ideas. It is all about creating conditions that allow innovation to become part of daily discussions. This could be achieved through adjusting, existing organizational networks so that they become more decentralized, adding innovation to the agenda item of leadership meetings so that innovation is regularly discussed and training and professional development programs to encourage the use of creativity tools and techniques.
Do you have effective networks?
Developing an environment of trust
A key part of innovation is the fostering of ideas and the development of an environment in which employees are encouraged to take risks and test their ideas.
Think about how this can be achieved and built into your innovation strategy?
Questions to ask yourself
Do you have a cycle of innovation in your company?
Your company is heading where?
What type of innovation strategy will best suit your company?
Do you have ways to limit the cost of innovating?
Do you have mechanisms to harness innovation?
How can you develop a culture of creativity within your organization?
InnovaChange Navigator
The InnovaChange Navigator is an onsite service to assist entrepreneurs and companies to access knowledge, tools and resources to drive their innovative and change journey. The InnovaChange Navigator contains a range of topics designed to educate and guide companies through the innovation adventure. Topics range from “Why Innovate” through to “Measuring Success.”
The InnovaChange Navigator provides the following tools and resources:
A roadmap that introduces innovation across all aspects of the business;
Innovation programs and services that support your business;
Information on networking opportunities related to innovation;
An innovation navigator to guide your business in identifying appropriate innovation products and services; and
Detailed information of each stage of the innovation adventure.
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