Seeking Innovation Alignment Conversations

by Paul Hobcraft

Aligning innovation within a strategic conversation frameworkInnovation stands in service to the strategic goals of our organization, or it certainly should!

The first thing is you need to have a solid, thoughtful conversation around the type of strategic emphasis you wish to achieve from your innovation activity, how will it support the organizations strategic direction..

These can be aligned to general strategic needs such as growing market share, differentiation and disrupting adjacent markets, serving the consistent changing and demanding customer needs, or by honing the delivery process, by spotting those and then exploiting them rapidly and effectively. All these become alignment conversations.

Creating clear goals and linking / aligning innovation to those, gives a more agile top-level strategy dialogue as a vital step before you get into the actual innovation concept – delivery stage. Senior executives must establish the manner in which innovation fits within the strategic context established by goals, vision and strategies.

If you just simply are diving into innovations with no alignment structure you risk growing disappointments. In setting about having a series of strategic conversation of where innovation ‘fits’ can change the goalposts, alter the perspective and can give the innovation a more focused framing to build far better value propositions around.

Constructing an innovation conversation framework is never easy, we all come at it in different ways and those strategic conversations can begin to fray at the edges and slip more into tactical, the more we talk and this needs to be watched!

What I am suggesting here is an innovation conversation framework

One where we can approach different strategic value propositions, and where we might need to debate these across the organization, as the points of impact and resource need, so we can make a move towards a higher degree of innovation alignment from all involved.

If we take just the three ‘classic’ strategic thrusts of product leadership, operational excellence or customer intimacy, then we need to make clear the potentially different emphasis points within any suggested innovation approach that we should take.

Aligning innovation within a strategic conversation framework

The innovation alignment framework for a strategic conversation

We must, within any innovation approach, be clear on what and where we should be placing our primary focus.

Aligning innovation within a strategic conversation framework

This framing can be most useful to remind people who are involved that there are significant points of difference depending on the route approach to market.

There is a need to agree and align on what we are driving towards – and support any selected strategic direction. This framework can really open up the discussion. It can begin to show the possible implications and challenges ahead.

I would really doubt you could achieve a combination of all three, if you just consider some of the aspects I’ve laid out within this framework above.

If it is still demanded, and some leaders can be just that, demanding – wanting to cover all the bases without knowing why they should be really focusing down on one of these. The direction you go requires the organizational focus to build the type of capabilities, resources and processes to match this and these are critically different, dependant on the approach you take.

Really do try to establish some key strategic principles

I would suggest you really do need, even more, a framework to remind you of the critical differences and what aspects need clear focus to deliver to the distinct value proposition parts. Each strategic value proposition has significant implications to plan and work through.

This framework can help you to contribute to achieving a greater alignment between the strategic direction (product leadership, operational excellence or customer intimacy) and the key innovation aspects that help to align to this which the organization will need to think about and work through.

Publishing note:  This blog post was originally written on behalf of Hype and with their permission I have republished it here.

image credit: Paxson Woelber

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Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities. Find him @paul4innovating

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  1. Very nicely framed. I used something similar for discussions and framing service quality management 30 years ago and it was really useful for helping people understand the issues of managing expectations and processes. Yours does a great job around alignment of expectations and processes for creative innovation.

    So many people jump to their specific biases and beliefs about what innovation is, and that it is only one thing. Innovation can come from a variety of sources and be continuous small improvements or big jumps. It can be externally focused or completely internal.

    Nice job of putting this together.

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