Can you take small steps to innovation?

Topics: Strategy

It takes a lot of effort to develop innovative ideas.  You practically have to transform your organization like A.G. Lafley did at P&G.  He successfully made this transition, but it took a lot of effort to do so.  The transformation included building a culture of innovation with strong senior management support, and the development and implementation of strategies, processes and infrastructure to support breakthrough ideas.

Research states that the most profitable ideas are those that are breakthrough, but what if you’re not up to making a major transformation like P&G?  Can your organization take small steps to innovation?  I think so, small steps are very effective, especially when your organization is resistant to change.  One of the first steps in developing innovative products is to have an innovation strategy and strong leadership support; this in turn fosters a culture of innovation.   According to Booz Allen’s 2011 Innovation study, what drives innovation isn’t R&D spend, but rather strategic alignment and culture.

Your innovation strategy ultimately aligns with your business strategy, and it should indicate your strategic intent across your product strategies.  If you want to go beyond simple product revisions you need to indicate this within your innovation strategy.     ‘When’ is another important attribute that needs to be accounted for within your innovation strategy.  This is where you indicate the speed in which you implement changes to being more innovative, and it is totally appropriate to take small steps.   These steps can include:

  • Development of a business and innovation strategy that is clearly communicated to the key players within your organization; including your new product development team members.  These strategies will enable your team to develop product strategies that align with your innovation strategy.  Alignment is KEY.
  • Internal strategic initiatives sponsored by the CEO/President.   These initiatives can include an innovation day.  As the CEO/President, make sure that you’re present for opening and closing remarks, ideally participating during the entire session.  It is also important that it is not a one-off event, it is important to build a process for on-going idea submission and collaboration.
  • Field studies that engage your staff in actively understanding unmet customer needs. Methods like design thinking and voice of the customer can help here.

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