Aiming for a Future-Fit Strategy

Aiming for a Future-Fit Strategy

  • Posted by Cris Beswick
  • On April 14, 2020

“Not all innovations are created equal.”

That comment from Jacquelyn Pless headlined an article outlining the MIT Sloan approach to innovation strategy. [1] As it describes three foundations for delivering an effective strategy, the report makes it clear that innovation is a process that requires management and measurement to be successful.

The idea of successful innovation requiring a defined strategy is a concept which I introduced in a recent article ‘Why we need to AIM for innovation-led solutions.’ Sadly, it seems as though too many organisations are still seeing innovation as a bi-product or add-on rather than a driver of future success. A McKinsey survey from 2008 [2] revealed that just 27% of senior executives saw innovation as being fully integrated into the strategic planning process. Nearly ten years on and in 2017, a PwC survey saw 54% of executives struggle even to align innovation strategy with business strategy.

In other words, ten years of potential has been wasted with innovation still mainly seen as something which is set apart from core business imperatives. But I can tell you that as long as you see it as a separate entity, you’re never going to be able to align the organisation’s innovation potential with the outcome. 

Let’s go back to that initial quote. Unless your culture, people, processes and your strategy are fully aligned towards innovation, how will you know whether your innovation efforts are focused across the organisation, let alone capable of delivering something which adds value for the business and its customers? And while strategy sits elsewhere, how are you going to measure and understand which innovation projects have the potential to lead towards success and which are pet projects doomed to add little but cost?

As we comment on the AIM (Assessment for Innovation Maturity) website, ‘an innovation strategy should make the pursuit of innovation a clear outcome for every employee.’ Until your innovation strategy is a central contributor to and a component of your business strategy, that clear outcome is going to be muddied by internal conflicts and competing priorities.

At the time of writing the whole world is going through a period of virtually unprecedented challenge. A clear example of the reality of a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. But as Jean-Paul Sartre said;

‘we create ourselves through our choices.’ 

So, we can choose to give in to volatility and uncertainty, or we can use this as a wake-up call to bring alive my version of VUCA and be Visionary, Unbounded, Creative and Authentic. The place to start is by building a deep understanding of where we are today [4] and using that insight to create an integrated strategy which aligns the organisation towards innovation-led outcomes.

In my next article, I’ll look more closely at the leadership requirements for innovation. In the meantime, ask yourself this: what would an analysis of your strategy say about your commitment to innovation? Perhaps it’s time to take a good look at how you are going to deliver the future?



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