Shaping Innovation

Innovation. It’s everywhere and everyone is doing it in one form or another; or at least they claim to be. Having a clear vision and innovation plan is something that needs careful consideration otherwise innovation can degenerate into a product of boyish enthusiasm and a brainstorming session. Having a good idea is a major step forward, but having a winning idea often takes focused analysis.

When shaping an innovation portfolio it can help to consider the following 6 key steps:

1)     Vision. Define the aspirational direction or goal for your investment objectives.


2)     Identify. Rather than focusing on a solution, consider the problem. Which problem if solved, would create significant value? Identify potential business models or technology to solve the problem. By focusing on the client’s challenges and keeping abreast with how business and technology solutions may shape the solution, there is potential to unlock new opportunities.


3)      Selection. The management of innovation is not typically constrained by the lack of ideas.  The challenge is the selection of the right ideas and assessing which ones to take forward and which to cull, at defined decision gates. It is also important to identify and manage individuals who are emotionally invested in ‘their idea’, which can often bias prioritisation to the detriment of the portfolio.  


4)     Streamline. Companies can often get bogged down in the innovation process and lose track of the ultimate objective. Windows of opportunity can be missed, ranging from external/client funding, strategic partnerships, innovation portal competitions, first to market etc. Process can often be streamlined by having a cadre of experienced professionals who have the scars, vision and technical/business depth to prioritise and drive forward innovation whilst keeping a check on risk.


5)     Co-operate. Solutions often cross many boundaries which extend beyond the capability of the originating company. Companies who are successful innovators typically form strategic partnerships with others who are able to complement their capabilities, whilst also having similar values. They are able to iterate at speed and challenge accepted practice.


6)     Nurture. Innovation can often be a side-line for many businesses, to be squeezed in around the day job, or when staff are non fee earning. Although this helps to maintain core business progress, it can result in a lack of focus and creativity. Having a board level target can help to inspire and develop sustainable momentum. The boards also need to create the right environment for innovation by removing constraints, encouraging a fail fast culture and taking measured risks. Inviting selected members of the academic community can also help with lateral thinking, but it requires careful management or it can become a distraction.