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Innovation Management

Is Your Innovation Strategy Sustainable?

Published By Alex Elkins

It’s no surprise that an effective innovation strategy will help your company secure a sustainable advantage over the competition. While an innovation strategy might be easy to define, the strategy alone won’t drive your efforts. To fully realize your vision, you need to have a culture within your organization that embraces innovation. But how do you create a culture of innovation that will help carry your organization into the future?

In this post, we’ll talk about how you can build not only a strategy that promotes sustainable innovation, but also a culture that is rooted in continuously solving real problems for your customers.

The Importance of a Strong Innovation Strategy

Naturally, driving innovation is a top priority for most companies. Businesses must be able to adapt in the face of change while continuing to bring value to their customers, but many struggle with implementing a sustainable innovation strategy. One of the reasons for this is because organizations focus on protecting their business models instead of understanding the needs of the customer, or they focus too much on their existing goods and services rather than exploring new ways to secure future revenue growth.

Whatever the reason, one thing’s for certain: companies without a sustainable innovation strategy will struggle to stay relevant as the market inevitably changes.

In a webinar titled “Building a Sustainable Innovation Culture in 2020 and Beyond,” Forrester’s James Staten and Planview’s Doug Williams look at how to identify your organization’s innovation needs. From there, you can learn how to build an innovation strategy that helps your company reach its digital business initiatives.

James is a VP and principal analyst at Forrester, where he helps CIO professionals and other C-level executives become innovation leaders capable of driving their organization’s digital transformation and digital business initiatives. He also has experience working as the GM and chief strategist for Microsoft Azure, where he helped the Cloud & Enterprise division drive innovation and strengthen digital business strategies.

Formerly an innovation analyst for Forrester, Doug now helps innovation leaders from top Fortune 500 companies that are using Planview’s innovation management solution. He provides strategic guidance and assistance with implementing innovation strategies, so organizations can improve their innovation competency while also boosting employee engagement and achieving their business goals and objectives.

The webinar focuses on the following four themes:

  • How to advance customer needs to drive innovation and engage employees
  • How to expand your innovation programs so they include external partners and employees outside of your innovation team
  • Identifying and eliminating barriers that prevent innovation within your organization
  • How to develop a strategy that makes innovation sustainable from now into the future

Each of these themes will help you create an effective culture of innovation that serves as the foundation of your innovation program. Below are some of the key points covered for each theme.

1. Innovation Begins with the Customer and the Employees

The primary focus of your innovation program should be to advance the needs of your customers. More specifically, you want to have an understanding of what your customers are trying to accomplish so you can make it easier for them to achieve that outcome. Areas to look at include:

  • Your customer’s journey beyond your company
  • Market changes that could inhibit customers from reaching their desired outcomes
  • How you can help customers take advantage of market changes that make their journey easier

To understand your customer’s needs over time, you need to stay up to date with emerging technology in your field so you can continue to deliver value.

A great place to start in creating a sustainable innovation culture is to include employees in the innovation process. In doing so, you gain even more insight into how your products and services can deliver value to your customers. Plus, as employees see how their efforts relate to organizational strategy and provide value to the customer, they can become even more loyal to your organization.

2. Expand Your Innovation Programs

An effective innovation strategy shouldn’t be limited to innovation teams. This can create a culture of siloed innovations, where innovation benefits one specific area of the organization instead of the entire company. You can prevent this by expanding your innovation program to include employees outside of your team, as well as external partners. One way you can do this is by crowdsourcing innovation.

In Planview’s 2019 State of Crowdsourced Innovation Report, customers reported that 34% of their actionable ideas were sourced from people outside the sponsoring business unit. By encouraging more diversity in their innovation programs, organizations can further strengthen their innovation pipelines.

Crowdsourcing platforms like Planview Planview IdeaPlace make it easy for organizations to make their innovation program accessible to everyone within the company. After all, good ideas come from anywhere. An administrative assistant might have an idea that helps engineers, or a customer service representative may be able to offer insight into customer needs, expectations, and pain points that an innovation team has never considered.

3. Identify and Correct Internal Barriers Hindering Your Innovation Strategy

Even the best of innovation strategies require executive sponsorship to succeed. One of the biggest internal barriers to innovation is a lack of support from top leadership positions. If you don’t have someone who’s fully engaged and supportive of what you’re doing, you’ll have difficulty driving your ideas to the finish line and turning them into value for the customer.

It’s important that not only leadership make it a part of their agenda, but that departments like HR and accounting are a part of the strategic process. This allows for the business to better develop KPIs around innovation that are tied to their financials and employees. In fact, according to the 2019 State of Crowdsourced Innovation Report, 78% of customers started their crowdsourcing program to increase employee engagement – clearly showing the importance in HR being part of the initiative from the outset.

4. Making Innovation Sustainable into the Future

According to KMPG’s 2019 CEO Outlook: Redefining Resilience report, 84% of CEOs want to create a culture where trial and error is considered part of the innovation process. However, only 56% of CEOs surveyed say their organization has actually implemented that culture. This disconnect between expectation and reality can prevent companies from implementing a long-lasting innovation strategy that carries them into the future.

A successful strategy shouldn’t be built around one idea­­­; it should include a portfolio of innovations. Moreover, the culture should recognize the importance of failures and view that as an important part of learning more about the customer’s needs.

A study by IBM found that nearly 60% of top CEOs have moved away from routine improvements, in favor of disruptive innovation. While the pursuit for disruptive innovation is necessary for the future, it’s important to balance your strategy to make it sustainable.

That’s why your innovation strategy should include all three of the following three subgroups:

  1. Driving corporate engagement and innovation-embracing culture change
  2. Innovation engagement with product teams
  3. Disruptive innovations

This will help you build well-rounded, sustainable innovation programs capable of meeting customer demand while adapting to an ever-changing market.

The Takeaway

A good innovation strategy starts with aligning with your customer’s needs and preferences, even during periods of change and disruption. Creating a culture that values input from everyone within your ecosystem, including employees and external collaborators, can help your strategy flourish as well as expose you to more high-quality ideas that drive innovation. Download the whitepaper “Quantifying a Culture of Innovation: A Rigorous, Quantitative Analysis of Corporate Innovation Cultures” to get an in-depth look at Planview’s groundbreaking study with Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

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Written by Alex Elkins

Alex Elkins is a Product Marketing Manager and Scrum Master at Planview, where focuses on our Team Products - Spigit, LeanKit, and Projectplace. He joined Planview from Spigit, where he advanced his innovation acumen and built valued client relationships in the innovation space. Alex enjoys sharing strategies with our customers around continuous improvement and employee engagement to help enable a stronger team environment. He is a graduate of Emory University and Auburn University with degrees in Economics and Civil Engineering, respectively.