We’ve been doing a lot of strategy work lately at Orange Squid. It seems that organisations are now really beginning to understand that innovation isn’t a bolt on accessory for an organisation; innovation needs to be embedded at the organisational strategy level.
Of course, there are no shortages of innovation training companies and firms running “Innovation strategy” courses; in fact, earlier in my own innovation consulting career (long before Orange Squid!), I actually ran some of these! At the time, the pervading view amongst the world’s leading innovation experts was that you could set an innovation strategy by creating objectives focused on innovation outcomes and you could simply run innovation projects which focused on the objectives.
Cutting-edge, recent thinking on this topic however, is that separating innovation from an organisation’s core organisational strategy is fraught with danger. We have indeed seen this danger become a real problem in many organisations, just as the world’s innovation thought leaders have observed. Typically, the separation of innovation strategy and organisational strategy creates havoc, particularly amongst senior leaders who are focused on (and primarily measured on) ‘squeezing more juice out of the orange!’ We’ve seen organisations with all the right intentions stop learning at the strategy level with the result being that the extent to which the organisations have truly transformed is significantly crimped.
When it comes to modern strategy development, the extent to which innovation will be utilized (and the types and locus of innovation which will be leveraged) to reach and surpass organisational objectives needs to be baked into the strategy. Just as some years ago, Roger Martin observed that a high-quality strategy can’t be a shopping list of hopes, dreams and desired states without the key execution elements being embedded, it is now clear that innovation must also be embedded at the strategy level.
The work we have been doing in this area is genuinely exciting; some astonishingly elegant strategies have been developed, and the relevance of each element of the strategy has cascaded all the way down to frontline employees in ways previously never seen. Results show immediate and tangible benefits of this approach (which also boasts the benefit of engaging staff in ways previously deemed to be impossible).
So, as usual, we need a lot more than a quick blog post to do such an important topic justice, but to at least get you started, here are 3 ‘don’ts’ which will help you to avoid the Innovation Strategy Trap:
- Don’t develop an innovation strategy as a bolt-on to your organisational strategy – Innovation needs to be embedded into the strategy. Once you have developed your organisational ambidexterity balance, plan the degree and locus for innovation across the entire strategy and then bake it in!
- Don’t limit your innovation goals to growth gaps. Whilst innovation is a means to an end (as opposed to being a ‘goal’ in and of itself) it can be applied very successfully (with significant impact!) in a wide variety of applications.
- Don’t forget Roger Martin’s insights. Strategy development and execution shouldn’t be focused on as separate issues. If the execution element of the strategy is not explicitly present in the strategy, that’s going to be a problem. Same goes for innovation: If the innovation element of the strategy is not explicitly present in the strategy, that’s going to be a problem too.
If you would like to discuss how we can help you develop a modern strategy which embeds innovation and which will resonate throughout your organisation, you only need to touch base with us and between me and Astrid, you’ll never shut us up! email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s also worth noting that embedding innovation at the strategy level will have a far bigger impact on your culture than trying to copy some of Google’s cultural artefacts and telling people it’s “safe to fail!” But I’ll leave that one for our Organisational Psychologist to explain! email@example.com.