Innovation Perspectives – Strategy From Above?

by Dan Keldsen

This is the fifth of several ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on The Importance of Innovation Strategy. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Dan Keldsen

Arguably there is no important time than NOW to ensure that your organization has an innovation strategy.

After all, without a strategy, how are you going to making the changes to your business that you need to make, in order to survive the economic storm, and (if you move quickly and intelligently) to be well positioned to blow past your competition as the economy improves?

But strategy isn’t enough…

Yes, companies need an innovation strategy – and ideally, that innovation strategy is no different from the business strategy at large.

As very smart, and quite wealthy friend of mine once said in doing the upkeep on his home – “if you aren’t fixing it up, it’s breaking down.” And that most certainly applies to businesses and business models as well as it does to homes.

So, innovation strategy should either be your business strategy, or a sub-set of the overall organizational strategy, but strategy, even very deep, extremely well planned strategy will not do a SINGLE thing to move your company forward.

Execution is what counts – the rest is theory

There is an IBM commercial from the early 2000s that I frequently reference, that goes something like this:

A business managers has a room full of his team, and he’s proudly showing off the 3-inch thick paper binder with the “strategy that took us 12 months and 3 million dollars to create. It’s the most cutting-edge strategy we’ve ever had, and we’re extremely excited by this. My question to all of you is… can we do it?”

(dead silence for 10 seconds)

No! Absolutely not! No way!

(the manager is stricken, deathly pale as the team lampoons the strategy)

Strategy needs to connect to reality


By connecting to reality, I mean that while the goal may be to “think out of the box” – you need to take into account how your business operates now, what skills, technical capabilities, existing technology investments, partnerships, clients, etc. exist RIGHT NOW.

Connecting the dots between the current-state of the business, with the future-state of the business, means that the hard work to actually walk that path from here to there, needs to happen, and THAT is all about execution.

Is your team ready? Is your business ready? All of it? A certain piece of it?

Humans are adaptable creatures by nature, but some are more adaptable than others – which is why recommend taking a more scientific approach to understanding which people are equipped to create the brilliant, disruptive ideas, who can run them to actually delivery as a new product or service, who SHOULD be paired up to solve problems, who absolutely should NOT be working on similar teams, and so on. Measure their problem-solving and decision-making strengths, and take the best of the best for each type of problem that comes up, and the odds of successfully solving and executing on the solutions are that much more likely.

While it’s far easier to identify the weaknesses of teams or business models, leveraging the strengths is for many, quite difficult. And while some companies can “turn on a dime” or instigate rapid change throughout the organization, more often, there is a leading and a trailing edge to certain areas of the organization that are likely to make the jump to the future first.

Lead and Pull

Leverage the adapative leaders and pull-through to the rest of your organization, and you just might be able to make your innovation strategy turn into reality.

You can check out all of the ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles from the different contributing authors on The Importance of Innovation Strategy by clicking the link in this sentence.


Dan Keldsen is Co-founder and Principal at Information Architected in Boston, MA, providing analysis, consulting and training services to organizations worldwide on the application of technology to knowledge workers and managers.

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