Looking to find better ways to drive innovation value? The team at InnoLead wanted to share three slides that we have been using recently as part of our Best Practices Briefings, to help you think about how well you’re aligned with your organization’s overarching strategy.
Much as we “hire” drills to create holes and milkshakes to quench our thirst (and, at times, occupy unruly children in the back seats of our cars), companies “hire” innovation leaders and their teams to do particular jobs for the organization (such as “generate $100 million in new revenue in give years” or “develop digital service-delivery capabilities”). Since innovation is a solution to a problem, careful problem definition is essential if innovation investments are to pay off. What is the job you have been hired to do?
In their 2008 Harvard Business Review article “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?,” authors David Collis and Michael Rukstad shared their research findings that most senior leaders cannot clearly and concisely summarize their company’s strategy. In essence, a company’s strategy is the solution (the “drill”) senior leaders craft and implement to deliver upon their company’s mission and vision (“holes,” or Jobs-to-be-Done) in accordance with its values. A clearly defined strategy describes specific goals the company will achieve, and also key considerations. That includes where the company will play; how it will win; and how it will track its progress toward achieving those goals.
Given that innovation is a solution that should be “designed” to help a company achieve its strategic goals, clarity here is crucial. Collis and Rukstad appropriately invoke the old adage, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there” when describing the organizational “rudderlessness” that can occur without such clarity.
The same adage applies to innovation. McKinsey’s 7S framework, at right, can be used to describe the elements of an innovation ecosystem — including the innovation strategy; structure of innovation capabilities; specific innovation systems used to do things like scout, partner and test and learn; the number of people and types of skill sets required; the optimal leadership style; and the shared values or culture to advance innovation most effectively.
Without clear strategic “destinations” (the diagram at left) any innovation “road” (the diagram at right) could be the right one. Senior leaders should develop those 7S elements to optimally match what the corporate strategy requires from innovation.
When that link is strong, it becomes possible to continually assess whether the company is traveling down the right innovation road, and to select a new path if needed. When this link is weak – or non-existent – it is easy to invest a lot of people, time and money into an innovation vehicle that goes nowhere.