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How to Develop an Innovation Strategy

How to Develop an Innovation Strategy


Written by: Janice Francisco

Globally, leaders typically rank “innovation” as one of their top three organizational strategies, and in Canada, our leaders rank innovation fourth or fifth. And while innovation makes it to the list of top strategies, the innovation strategy itself doesn't fully come to life. Without a framework to guide innovation decisions, it becomes difficulty to achieve your goals. 

This blog outlines how to develop an innovation strategy by identifying the key components that should be addressed.  

The Paradox of Innovation 

Leaders in most organizations agree that innovation is a good idea. Yet, when they identify innovation as a top organizational strategy they neglect to define what innovation means within the context of their organization.

As a result, everyone is left knowing innovation is important and that they’re supposed to do it, but wondering exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and how.

Without clarity on what they need to do differently, people can’t mobilize in a cohesive way to create the value and results innovation is meant to produce. In short, when thinking about how to develop an innovation strategy, they’re missing the detailed thinking that transforms innovation from something we want to see into something we do. If you're responsible for delivering innovation in your organization, you need more than wishful thinking; you need an innovation strategy to guide your effort, and you need to find a way to align it to the corporate strategy. 

How to Develop an Innovation Strategy

Understand innovation in your context

The first step in developing an innovation strategy is actually to take a step back and ensure everyone is on the same page with what innovation means within the context of the organization. Innovation isn’t a one-size fits all proposition – it needs to be outcome-driven and approached in a way that’s relevant to organizational needs and capacity.

Our team is frequently engaged by organizations to help them get their innovation strategies off the ground. Our facilitated innovation strategy workshops always begin by engaging leaders in first defining what innovation means for their organization. Then, through a Creative Problem Solving process, we ask them to consider some key questions, such as:

  • Why do we need to innovate?
  • What are some examples of past innovations in our organization?
  • What are our strengths with regards to innovation? Our weaknesses?
  • Who in our organization should innovate?
  • When is innovation needed?
  • How should we innovate?
  • What are our key priorities for innovation?

As we delve into these questions, appreciate past efforts and challenge assumptions about the potential for more innovation, we’re able to get a sense of where the organization is now with regards to innovation. We can also better understand the leadership team’s appetite for further efforts to achieve and sustain innovation. This is important because innovation doesn’t happen through wishful thinking. We often tell leaders – you can’t delegate innovation, you have to lead it.

Capture the value and outcomes

Once innovation has been put into context, you should have sufficient information to summarize your vision and the outcomes you want to achieve. This step is key: leaders must be able to articulate the vision to their teams so that everyone understands where the organization is headed, and they must be able to share the vision in a way that helps teams understand what’s expected of them and the value innovation is meant to achieve in the organization. 

Build the framework

Based on this shared vision, we then work with leaders to develop a framework for the innovation strategy, which they are now able to do with more clarity and commitment. As part of this step, we examine any obstacles that stand in the way of implementing an innovation strategy, such as tools and skills that teams may need to acquire to support innovation.

Plan for Your Innovation Journey

Think of the innovation strategy workshop as the preparation that needs to be made before taking a long journey—the planning and packing if you will. After the workshop, leaders have a definition for innovation in their organizational context and a vision they can share in a meaningful way. In other words, they know where they want to go. They have a framework that identifies their priorities—what they want to achieve on this innovation journey and what they need to get there. They are now ready to address the innovation strategy itself, which is the detailed roadmap of how to achieve innovation in the organization.

By skipping this preparatory step—the planning and packing—your leadership team is liable to start the journey without agreeing on the destination.

You don't want an innovation journey that mirrors this exchange from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where—" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

What's your Innovation Strategy?

If your organization is working to develop an innovation strategy that all your leaders and their teams can work towards implementing, your organization could benefit from an innovation strategy workshop.

Our innovation strategy workshop can be delivered in one or two days using digital facilitation tools that fast-track time to results. The workshop is a small investment of time that produces big benefits: clarity around why innovation is important to your organization, what you want to achieve with innovation, and a framework that outlines how you’re going to get there. 

After the workshop, you receive a detailed report on the workshop results and a summary of your next steps. Bottom line: immediately after leaving the workshop, your organization has a roadmap for innovation and the vision and tools needed to develop a more detailed innovation strategy.

Need help with your innovation strategy? 

Schedule a discovery call

I'll listen to what you're going through and work with you to find a solution.






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in "Building Capacity for Innovation"

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