Three Risks Of Forging Ahead Without An Innovation Strategy

Three Risks Of Forging Ahead Without An Innovation Strategy

Zoe Aitken (lead image) is the head of consulting at leading behavioural science and innovation consultancy Inventium and has over 20 years’ experience helping organisations develop customer-centric growth strategies and innovation. In her latest post for B&T, Aitken argues there’s no innovation without first devising an innovation strategy. Here’s how…

Plenty of agencies have ‘innovation’ earmarked as a top priority, however surprisingly many don’t have an innovation strategy to support this intent. Yet innovating without a strategy is like going on a road trip without a destination or map. You can end up getting very lost and wasting a whole lotta time trying to get yourself back on track.

Here are three major risks of ploughing ahead without a well-defined innovation strategy:

1. You dilute your impact.

When you lack focus and structure around your innovation priorities, it’s easy to get distracted by the “bright shiny object” syndrome, chasing every new trend or idea without considering strategic alignment and impact. As a result, your efforts end up scattered across disparate, disjointed projects that fail to move the dial.

Defining your strategic priorities provides focus, allowing you to filter opportunities and say ‘no’ to misaligned, time-wasting tangents. An innovation strategy allows you to allocate resources more intentionally to initiatives that have the highest potential payoff for your organisation.

2. You waste resources by duplicating efforts.

In large organisations especially, the absence of an overarching innovation strategy leads to duplicated efforts across silos and teams. When there’s no over-arching strategy to guide teams, communication can break down and different areas of the organisation risk circling the same problems and ideas. This redundancy wastes resources, can breed internal competition (aka the “not invented here” syndrome), and hinders organisation-wide innovation.

An innovation strategy, that aligns priorities and initiatives, empowers the team to take a coordinated approach to innovation, and identify any potential overlaps early. It helps facilitate transparency and reduces costly duplications.

3. You miss disruptive opportunities.

Innovation requires adequate investment of time, money, people, and attention. Without a strategy guiding these resource allocations, it’s all too easy to spread your assets thin across lacklustre projects and priorities. And this can leave you cash-strapped when more disruptive, higher impact, opportunities come along.

Careful planning allows you to budget, schedule, and staff your innovation initiatives based on strategic importance. It will ensure you have a balanced portfolio of both incremental as well as disruptive opportunities. Your strategy will empower you to earmark resources for initiatives with the highest impact, and be nimble enough when new, strategically aligned, opportunities arise.

If your organisation is driving blind without an innovation strategy, you can start your thinking by asking three questions:

  1. What are your most critical customer problems to solve?

For each customer problem, ask yourself:

  1. Why is now the right time to solve this problem?
  2. Why are you the natural owners of this problem?

Compelling innovation opportunities are identified at the intersection of these three questions. That is, they focus on solving a powerful customer problem, the timing is right to solve the problem, and you are the rightful owners. Use these questions to help guide your innovation strategy to ensure cohesion and intentionality, and that your opportunities reinforce rather than distract from one another.

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