I complete my first year as an independent business advisor convinced that the biggest thing that gets in the way of innovation is the inability that organisations have to get their act together in intent, content and spirit. With that big elephant in the room, you struggle to turn strategy into action and you can’t connect your technology and marketing capabilities — and people. Perhaps I needed to get out of the trenches after 26 years to see it so clearly.
So you have a strategy, but does it lend itself to be implemented as well as presented?
Judging by the number of its facts-filled slides, it is probably a good strategy. It might have even got your company’s Board to give its blessing to a new agenda. If you have a strategy, ideas and technology, why does innovation fail?
My belief is that an effective innovation strategy has to be designed for business outcomes, people engagement and practical action.
One of my clients, whom I cannot disclose yet, had a business proposition which led to some strong initial market performance. However, when the times and competition got tough, the model appeared not to be repeatable or scaleable. Growth and profit began to suffer.
For all its original strength, the proposition was lacking an intimate alignment between the core business model, the needs of the customers, the company’s strengths and assets and the commitment of its leaders.
Things are always easier said than done. So, step-by-step, we built a strategy for action and connected technical and commercial people and the leaders of the company to create and deliver, together.
We started by creating and road testing a new core business value proposition:
- The experience to deliver to its customers against present and future needs
- The key drivers chosen for a renewed business model: sharp benefit and target audience, proven product superiority, single brand with heavy support and endorsement, easy to access channel, customer service and profit model
- The stretch and strain this new business model would impose to the existing one and the company’s capabilities and assets
The result was a clear identification of the company’s “growth sweet spot”, the “growth platforms” and the “must win battles” (call them how it best suits you).
The first task was to connect technology and marketing capabilities, their people and the leaders of the company
I believe that a clear vision, inspiring content and clarity of what needs to be done at an individual level can bring people together. To get there, we merged innovation and marketing people into a new Value Creation Team. We started with the consumer needs, the new value proposition, the new business and profit model, the new growth sweet spot, the new growth platforms, the new must win battles… and we asked ourselves the question “so what?” in a very granular way for both innovation and marketing.
The result was a re-born market-centric innovation pipeline with consumer, market, business and technology needs integrated from the start so we could overcome implementation issues early.
Sometime down the road of execution, slides began to replace the open dialogues we had at the beginning. We realised we needed a new follow up approach. It’s said beginnings are difficult. I say in innovation, beginnings are what’s easy. Execution and follow-through, scaling the idea without losing it, making lots of mistakes, eventually making more money than mistakes… That’s how ideas become businesses that work.
To overcome these obstacles, we asked ourselves at each output milestone what was working, what was not woking and what needed attention. And we worked together to create solutions to these problems
- Amplifying what was working boosted ideas and innovation capabilities
- Co-creating solutions for what was not working got people into problem-solving behaviour, away from blame or justification
- Bringing our attention to the things that might not work down the line led to pro-active actions that prevented some of them from becoming real issues
So, if you want to boost your innovation, try out these simple steps
- First, create a truly actionable strategy by connecting the new business model with the customer, the company’s capabilities, assets and its people (this is easier said than done)
- Second, connect technology and marketing capabilities and people so they operate as Value Creation Cells with the company leaders, to ideate holistically and accelerate implementation end-to-end (this is tough)
- Finally, build a practical and simple follow up approach to ensure sustainable implementation and delivery (this is probably the toughest part)
Practice makes habit. A lot of practice is needed before successful innovation can become a habit. I hope these insights helped strengthen your practice.