The Basics Of Innovation Strategy

We all know that innovation can be challenging. The most difficult part is figuring out what kinds of ideas you should be coming up with in the first place.

A good innovation strategy obviously requires rigorous thinking, backed up by both qualitative and quantitative data. However, the questions that drive the strategy are fairly straightforward.

If you want to innovate for the long term, you will need to understand who to focus on, what to make, and how to actually develop the new products or services that you want to make.

The Who

It’s often said that innovation is about problem solving. That’s true, and the real trick of it is knowing whose problems you should solve. You can’t be all things to all people, otherwise you will end up meaning nothing to everyone.

By deciding who to focus your innovation efforts on doesn’t mean you will only sell to only one type of person. You can have more than one target for different parts of your strategy. For example, this could be per channel, brand or business unit.

Having a single person at the centre of your focus for each strategic pillar will result in a sense of clarity that often appeals to many consumers beyond the core.

Why it’s important:

  • It ensures your investment is focussed on changing the behaviour of the people who are likely to be more loyal to your brand, product or service
  • It helps you to live and breathe your core consumers in the business – which means you will get to understand what drives them far more deeply. This sets you up for a better chance of uncovering truly competitive insights that will give your competition a serious run for their money

The What

First, what not to do. We would highly advise not approaching innovation in a scattergun fashion. It is not wise to go after as much interesting, new stuff as you can, and then see if anything sticks. While this is fun, it results in people wasting time and money trying to do too much, and unfortunately, very little of it successfully.

It’s far more successful to make fewer, bigger, and better bets that your organisation can execute better than anyone else. If you can identify the three or four major growth platforms that are going to propel your business forward, it will allow you to focus your attention and have a higher chance of success.

Imagine for a moment you are a lager company, your growth platforms may be:

  • Create exciting food & drink pairings
  • Exploit the demand for small batch, hand-crafted beers
  • Crack low/ no alcohol
  • Lead the next flavoured lager trend

Why it’s important:

  • If you end up spreading your efforts and budget resources too thinly, you will be highly likely to miss really important details that could make or break your idea and also get tempted to cut corners.

The How

There isn’t one way to innovate. Depending on the capabilities of your company, the markets you’re in, and your company culture, some approaches might work better than others. But the short answer is simple: play to your strengths centred around your current capabilities; your brand strengths; and where you believe there are some quick-wins. This helps you identify the work streams you will need to initiate, and keeps the focus objective, preventing bias and whims creeping in.

The more you play to those strengths, the more you’ll innovate, and the more you’ll get the competition to play your game instead of theirs.