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Innovation is Strategy; Strategy is Innovation

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I recently had an interaction with a smaller company working
on their future strategy which basically is
to grow much more rapidly than what they have been doing in the past. The
company is in a good position for this having some unique products in place
based on an even stronger value proposition. Now, the execution itself ' and
how they plan for/strategize on this execution ' will decide how this goes. These
interactions gave me some good inspiration for thinking further on innovation,
strategy and management. This includes:
Innovation is strategy and strategy is innovation: Today,
we can't separate the two from each other and this should drive the thinking of
all executives. A key reason that this does not happen in big numbers yet is
that many executives do not fully understand innovation. We need an upgrade
here.
Besides the upgrade, it is also worth looking into how 'traditional
corporate strategy hinders optimizing the management of innovation' as
stated by Willy Sussland in an article where he encourages companies
to innovate on the strategy as well as on
the strategy process itself. This is a quote from the article: 'To innovate the strategy and to make it work, I believe
that we have to start by innovating the way people think, the way people
behave, and the way people act.'
Business, strategy and innovation should be about people
first, so I like his take. You can check out more of Sussland's
work here
.
First, reap the low-hanging fruits in the obvious business
functions: All companies must upgrade their innovation efforts and there
are lots of low-hanging fruits in the business units and functions that are
close to innovation. These 'obvious' functions include R&D, innovation
teams and sales & marketing. However, as this is obvious it also has the
attention of everyone in an industry so if you want to get a competitive
advantage towards your key competitors you must not only do this better and
faster; you must also go beyond these obvious areas.
Then, go for the real value in the un-obvious business
functions: It does become more difficult when you go beyond the obvious
areas, as these functions are not used to being an important part of the
innovation efforts. On the other hand, this is exactly the reason that you
should consider this in order to make a difference towards your competition.
In my view, procurement and supply-chain are some of the
most important of the 'un-obvious' business functions with regards to
innovation. We have already seen several cases within the airline industry in
which the open innovation movement has turned the supply-chain into a key
element of an innovation process. Think Airbus and Boeing and their mixed
results.
I have also seen how companies within the fast moving
consumer goods industry develop innovation training programs dedicated to their
procurement teams. You can find some good insights on innovation within
procurement / supply chain here:
Innovation in Procurement (a report by Cap Gemini)
Responsible
Procurement
 (a site by a specialist in procurement excellence)
The point I would like to make on the 'un-obvious' business
functions is that there is substantial value to be gained if these functions
are fully engaged and brought up to speed with regards to innovation. A key
argument is that you get a much more holistic approach to innovation on a
corporate wide level if you invest more in these supposedly weaker areas.
It is actually worth pondering on whether you should invest
in making your obvious functions and teams even stronger on innovation or if
you should invest in the un-obvious teams in order for them contribute more.
There are pros and cons on where to put the main focus.
The best approach would of course be to have enough
resources to do both, but it is my experience that this rarely happens so what
would you suggest if you had to choose on one of the two options ' and why?
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About the Author: Stefan
Lindegaard is an author, speaker and strategic advisor who focus on the topics
of open innovation, social media and intrapreneurship. 

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