Stop talking about innovation and start doing it. Establishing a strategic foundation is the start to innovation success. But how do you execute those ambitions and make better innovation a reality?

You heard Nike: “Just do it.” Innovation doesn’t happen by talking, but by doing.

Imagine building a house without foundations. It may look good from the outside, but won’t stand up to turbulence and will eventually come crashing down. That’s activity without strategy. So many innovation programs fail because they don’t have a clear strategic mandate to guide their activities.

Having the strategic foundation for the innovation program enables the Operational phase of our Better Innovation framework.

The Operational phase = execution.

Making the innovation program actually happen.

Moving from Strategy to Operational requires a translation of innovation strategy to organisational application. What innovation means for each area and, more importantly, how each division should collaborate to make it happen. Each divisional leader must know how their area aligns to deliver the overall desired ambitions.

How long does the journey take? We’ve seen that if a return on funds is expected too quickly, innovation teams often play it safe. Bigger impacts are delivered, not always with bigger funds, but always with a strategic roadmap that takes account of the amount of innovation projects needed in different timeline horizons.

We at Innovate21 always create an innovation roadmap that demonstrates delivery of the strategic goals. The roadmap is flexible to reflect innovation’s iterative, explorative nature and covers the innovation lifecycle flow from insight to implementation.

Now you stop talking and start doing…

A superb example of executing innovation is DBS Bank, based in Singapore. DBS launched their Innovation Lab to speed up change in the organisation. They focussed on collaboration to drive diversity and challenge current processes. As a result, DBS has seen tremendous innovation impact due to a clear strategic focus and energetic execution.

Energy to deliver innovation is a must. Energy overcomes organisational inertia and the barriers that exist in getting innovation done.

Not random energy, but focussed. Established innovation processes bring focus and are vital to success. Budgets, resources, time are all finite; processes enable efficiency to maximise outputs. And a good innovation process focuses on more than just getting ideas.

Ideas often get the glory in innovation. So many people excuse themselves from innovation as they don’t have ideas. You may not see yourself as the ideas guy, but being able to find insights, spot problems, test and implement ideas are just as critical to successful innovation.

Big Tech organisation Cisco runs their annual global challenge, ‘Innovate Everywhere’ to discover great ideas from employees. With over 80,000 people involved, the central innovation team have honed their process that refines thousands of ideas to the few that can be developed and productised.

Cisco doesn’t struggle for ideas, so they focus on validating and testing ideas, creating intrapreneur* capability in the organisation. Impressively, Cisco provides successful idea teams with three months away from their ‘day job’ to build and productise their idea, overcoming a major hurdle of innovation: lack of time.

When innovation processes are already established, changing them can be hard. We recommend focussing efforts on the urgent needs, where there is nothing in place or the process is not delivering. Our Better Innovation diagnostic helps here, and our neutrality enables us to have the hard conversations when needed.

Better Innovation Framework
by Harvey Wade & Ian Pallister

With regard to time, we’ve seen that if a return on funds is expected too quickly, innovation teams often play it safe. Bigger impacts are delivered, not always with bigger funds, but always with a strategy that takes account of the amount of innovation projects needed in different timeline horizons.

Staying on track…

Operationalising the innovation program takes a ton of effort, perseverance, and, in our experience, great sensitivity to the organisational culture. In our next post, we’ll talk about the third phase in our Innovation Impact framework which pulls Strategy and Operational together: ‘Manage’.

To read the other blogs in this series, please find the links below:

  1. Making Innovation Better
  2. A Better Innovation Approach
  3. A Why is Needed to Innovate Better
  4. Better Innovation Execution
  5. Creating a Better Innovation Culture

Photo credit: Anh Duy on Unsplash

*Intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organisation.