How do you tie innovation to strategy? Professor Christie Nordhielm from the University of Michigan has developed what I consider the best single contribution to marketing thought since the 4P's. Her Big Picture framework of the marketing management process provides the context for innovating across the entire business model. Applying systematic innovation tools to each aspect of her Big Picture model can yield amazing insights at both the strategic and tactical levels of the business. It is the intersection of these two ideas...Big Picture Strategy and Systematic Inventive Thinking...that will yield consistent, profitable results. Innovation follows strategy...not the other way around.
Innovation is a skill, not a gift. Top organizations drive growth by nurturing and investing in innovation as a competency. One way organizations make it real is by including innovation within formal competency models.
Professor Rodney Rogers of Portland State University defines a competency as a persistent pattern of behavior resulting from a cluster of knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations. It is the persistence of those behaviors that matter most and help your organization succeed. Competency models are a useful way to formalize that behavior and make it persistent. They help describe the ideal patterns needed for exceptional performance. They are a blueprint for the type of person needed for a specific job. And they help diagnose and evaluate employee performance. It takes a lot of work to develop one, but it's worth it.
Finding adjacent market spaces is an attractive way to grow. Adjacent markets are not too far away from your core business in terms of channels, technology, price point, brand, etc. Adjacent means: lying near, neighboring, having a common border, touchable. Although chasing adjacencies can be distracting, it is a much easier to sell internally. Adjacencies seem more achievable than far out, ethereal white space opportunities.
Adjacent markets are even more appealing when you apply a systematic innovation method to it. Giving yourself the gift of novelty in a new market space right next to your own seems like the best of both worlds. The trick is finding the right adjacencies.
Innovation that is linked to strategy is seen as more realistic and supportable. Innovating is efficient because you avoid creating ideas that are out of scope. Firms struggle with this as Idris Mootee observed in his blog, Innovation Playground:
"The most amazing thing with strategic experience innovation is that it takes one kind of company and leadership to create the idea and another kind of company to scale it up and drive industry transformation and we see it in markets after market."
Andrew Hinton offered this insight on his blog, Inkblut:
"We hear the words Strategy and Innovation thrown around a lot, and often we hear them said together. “We need an innovation strategy.” Or perhaps “We need a more innovative strategy” which, of course, is a different animal. But I don’t hear people questioning much exactly what we mean when we say these things. It’s as if we all agree already on what we mean by strategy and innovation, and that they just fit together automatically."
There are two approaches to linking innovation and strategy: Strategy-Informs-Innovation and Innovation-Informs-Strategy. Here is how:
Netflix needs urgent change to stop the bleeding and rebuild its business model. It is running out of cash and losing support from customers and shareholders. Management must re-establish its credibility with bold moves. Here is a series of steps and techniques to do that.