6 Free Principles For A Winning Innovation Strategy

So, you’ve decided to develop an innovation strategy - excellent!  Many, organizations make motherhood statements about innovation or include them in the organisation’s values but have no clear pathway to transfer from their current culture to one that's innovative.  Developing your innovation strategy is a great start – if you’d like some help, have a look at my blog “10 Must-Haves For Your Innovation Strategy” .  As stated in the blog, do make a point of involving other people in your organisation - and consider getting the help of an experienced professional.

One thing you don't want your strategy to do is to make things worse than they already are. That could happen in many ways for example, by including too many extra processes; making the whole thing too unwieldy or unmanageable or otherwise adding hurdles where there aren't any already.

Here are 6 principles to help you avoid that.

1. Use Existing Structures

Or to put it another way, don't go around creating new structures especially for innovation. You want to have it as much as part of business-as-usual, as possible.  So wherever it is possible, use existing structures. These might include existing reward structures, existing risk management frameworks and existing information channels.  An example of this at its simplest is to use existing team meetings to ask “what new ideas do you have?”, “What can we stop, start, continue doing that helps innovation?”.  Simply building a question like this into your regular meetings with your staff – creates the expectation of them to be more innovative.

2.Create Multiple Pathways For Ideas. 

You don't want to create one single bottleneck that every idea needs to go through.  As far as possible, have multiple pathways for innovations to develop.  Some of the most innovative organisations have both formal and informal processes for innovation.   An informal pathway may be as simple as turning a blind eye to “experiments”.  (The technical term is “boot- legging”).  So, have multiple pathways (and even funding sources).

3.Encourage Autonomy With Accountability

Where possible, let people choose and develop their own ideas.  For instance you might decide to let teams decide their own innovation and only have an organisation-wide gateway, for innovations that cross team boundaries.

4.Look To Your Strengths

When you start developing your strategy it will be really tempting to seek out all the blockers (people and systems) and address them. You need to do that to some extent, but only focusing on what is wrong is a “deficit” approach, and ultimately unproductive.  (For more about why this is a bad idea look at the research of Kim Cameron (or get in touch and we’ll send you one of his papers)). Don't just look at the blockers, look at the strengths. There probably is a lot of innovation happening in the organisation. Where is it happening? How is it happening?

One organisation I worked with came up with a clever way to avoid giving too much energy to the blockers. They recognised they had a lot of what they called ‘dinosaurs’ – people who don't want things to change, who are going to squash innovation, and who are going to resist new ideas.  They decided not to build a system for innovation just to deal with those people.  Instead they chose to deal with them through their normal pathways – eg: performance management, engaging them, communications etc. On the other hand they created a strategy to help the other 90% that have lots of ideas, who want to engage, and are pro-innovation.

For example, supposing you know that some team managers are going to block new ideas, do you set up an alternative structure for evaluating ideas?   You could do that or you could help:

  1. develop the staff in that team to better sell their ideas to that team manager.
  2. that manager become more receptive to innovation.
  3. Don’t develop a strategy that just attends to the blockers. The dinosaurs will eventually get the message.  They’ll either change or manage themselves out of the organisation.

5.Review Your Innovation Strategy.

Every three months get together, have a look at it, see how it's working, tweak it and change it. Be innovative about your innovation. It should be a living, breathing document.

6.Keep It Short

Don’t write a long and detailed strategy document that no one is going to read. Come up with something on a couple of pages or better still come up with an info-graphic or a pictogram which talks about how you're going to do innovation.

These six principles will help you develop an innovation strategy, that is not an onerous burden to carry out and that really works. Don’t forget to download our PDF “10 must haves to include in your innovation strategy”.  Use them. In my experience, organisations that have used them, have had a lot more success with being innovative. Good luck, go forth and innovate. May you have bundles of ideas, lots of productivity and great performance for you and your organization. 

Cris helps organisations create engaged, thriving and vibrant workplaces - and unleash the Power of Positive Performance People (PoPP), to improve productivity by 30 to 50%.  Give Cris a call to help you and your team in your organisation, get more done with less stress (and still get home with something left in the tank at the end of the day). Get in touch +61 438 545 607 or email Cris at info@crispopp.com.