Innovation in 5: Strategy first

“A strategy is something you can touch; you can motivate people with; be number one and number two in every business. You can energise people around the message.”

                                              Jack Welch, former CEO, GE

Great organisations do strategy well. They know where they want to be, why it’s important, and how they plan to get there.

Great organisations ensure innovation activities support their ambitions.

Unfortunately, because relatively few organisations do strategy well, innovation is rarely approached in a strategic way.

Without a clear purpose and direction, an innovation mandate is challenging.

It’s like flying through fog. Decision-making is difficult and reactive, driven by partisanship instead of collaboration and common goals.

Innovation becomes ad hoc. Tokenism dominates. Energy and goodwill dissipate when yet another flagship program crashes or a promising initiative is shelved without explanation.

Overtaxed staff see precious resources diverted into areas that make no sense when budgets are tight.

Without a strategic basis, innovation is difficult to sell. Innovation creates extra work, diverts attention from pressing business issues and delivers little of tangible value. Promised gains are too far off.

If your innovation program seems to lack coherence or momentum, go back to basics. Ask why innovation is on your agenda at all. Ask yourself:

  • What are the top two or three strategic objectives for your business?
  • How will innovation help achieve each objective?

Being able to answer these questions with confidence is the first step in developing an innovation program that makes sense.

This is #4 in a series of quick-reference posts on innovation basics.

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