Okay, who’s ready to try to create an actual innovation strategy for their organization?


[Show of hands…]

If you raised your hand, well, “A for enthusiasm,” but odds are you’re actually not ready for that…


An innovation strategy must be more than just some vaguely inspiring words up on a wall or in a dense deck somewhere.

A real innovation strategy is a reflection of a set of specific conversations that you and your organization must have, and then decisions you make as a result. Think of these discussions — each of which leads to an agreed-upon spot on an overall strategic continuum — as the blueprint or the foundations for the innovation strategy you’re building.

Try building a house without plans and a foundation, and it will likely collapse; and the same holds true for your innovation strategy — no foundation, no lasting impact.

With that said, check out these nine innovation strategy continuums, and think about where your own organization currently is, and more importantly, where you want it to be.

Next week I’ll talk about how you use the results from this strategic continuum work to start creating a bona fide innovation strategy for your organization.


The Nine Innovation Strategy Continuums


An essential aspect of creating a real innovation strategy for your organization is knowing or identifying where the organization is along a set of innovation continuums. Think about this continuum and indicate where you think your organization is — and then where you think it should be — on a 1-10 scale. Once you have these ratings — and have adjusted them over time as a result of vigorous debates — we will be able to use them as the basis for developing a clearly articulated innovation strategy.


1. CUSTOMER: Listening to the Customer (1) vs. Leading the Customer (10)


Do we derive our ideas for innovation by listening to our customers and responding to their needs and wants, or by leading customers by imagining what our they might love if it was presented to them?


2. CORE: Innovating in the Core (1) vs. Innovating at the Edge (10)


Do we focus on innovating our current products, services, and processes (The Core), or are we more focused on innovating to create new ways of working and bringing value to customers (The Edge)?


3. SCALE/SPEED: Big Bets/Slow Tempo (1) vs. Small Bets/Fast Tempo (10)


Do we develop and launch large, complex offerings at a relatively slow innovation tempo (Big/Slow), or do we place lots of “little bets/Minimum Viable Products” at a faster innovation tempo(Small/Fast)?

4. COMPETITION: Fast Follower (1) vs. Innovative Leader (10)


Do we monitor competitors’ innovations, and then create our own versions of those offerings (Fast Follower), or do we “strike first” with our own innovations (Innovation Leader)?


5. CULTURE: Top-Down/Centralized Innovation (1) vs. Bottom-Up/De-Centralized Innovation (10)


Do we expect direction re: innovation to come down from “the top,” i.e., the CEO/senior leadership, or is innovation expected to bubble up from “the bottom,” i.e. the people closest to our products, services, and processes?


6. FOCUS: Focused/Targeted Innovation (1) vs. Expansive/Wide-Ranging Innovation (10)


Do we carefully select key areas for innovation that show promise and focus on them (Focused), or do we take a “Let a thousand flowers bloom” approach, exploring in many areas at once (Expansive)?


7. TECHNOLOGY: Targeted Technology Innovation (1) vs. Expansive Technology Innovation (10)


Do we innovate using a carefully chosen set of technologies (Targeted), or do we explore a wide range of potentially relevant/valuable technologies somewhat equally (Expansive)?


8. TALENT: Internal/Organic Innovation (10) vs. Ecosystem/Partnership Innovation (1)


Do we primarily expect our own people to innovate (Internal), or do we look at innovation as an ecosystem activity that also involves collaborations with other companies and experts, investments, acquisitions, etc.?


9. BRAND: Subtle Re: Our Innovation (1) vs. Expressive Re: Our Innovation (10)


Do we focus on innovation, per se, and let our work speak for us re: our being known an “innovative company,” or do we take a more proactive, intentional approach to becoming known for our innovation?