Innovation Alignment

How will your innovation strategy propel your growth?

Charting an innovation strategy is just the start. You also need to align the organization to execute that strategy.

Don’t plot your path without preparing for the journey. Ampersand’s Propeller Model™ illustrates the elements to align your organization. Pursue your mission in your chosen market by aligning your people, processes and organization structure.

 

&Propeller grayFirst, your strategy is informed by your clearly stated purpose (or vision, mission – depending on the vernacular of your organization). What do you intend to achieve? How will the world be better for your success? Your purpose serves as the focal point of your strategy. It declares the goal and points your people in the right (or at least initial) direction to go after it.

Next, look around. Scan the wild blue yonder of your chosen market. Who are your prospective customers? How do they differ? What do they need – and what to they want – versus what they make do with today. Who provides a competitive offering? What substitutes for the ideal?

Where Business strategy might parse the competitive field with Porter’s Five Forces Model, Innovation strategy looks farther afield – beyond your market to discover how other audiences in other situations solve for analogous needs. It also looks below the radar – from sources such as scientific research, patent applications, early venture-funded startups, and social media chatter – to pinpoint emerging alternatives. Even serial innovators, like Google and Apple, often acquire the innovations and reward entrepreneurs, to seed a larger vision.

Innovation strategy also demarcates artificial boundaries set by influencers, such as governments, regulators,  local demographics and social norms. Some represent no-fly zones. Others indicate dead air. Before you finalize your flight plan, test the winds, and anticipate the turbulence ahead.

Structure follows strategy. Culture is the backwash.

Some years ago we learned the hard way that your organization’s culture represents the vortex left in the wake of your propeller. If you want to change your culture, start with a self-diagnosis. Have you clearly stated the mission of your business? Can the average employee, customer or shareholder accurately reflect back to you your primary purpose? Why is the world better for your existence. Once you have the mission clear and understood, align your business around that goal.

You have four options.

  1. Reform the methods and metrics of your business processes.
  2. Alter the structure that supports them, including hierarchical authority, reporting relationships and organizing tenets (like shifting from functions to to markets).
  3. Or you have to change the values or abilities of your people. And keep in mind, sometimes in order to change people, you have to change people.
  4. More likely, you will want to reengineer all three.

If you can describe the culture you expect, then you can modify and realign all three blades of your propeller until it produces the desired smooth cultural backwash. Just as societies get the governments they deserve, so do companies get the culture they deserve. Set your goal. Forecast the weather. Plot your path. Align your organization. And fly for the horizon. Or ignore these lessons and buckle up,  Amelia Earhart.

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