Innovation Strategy: Define Your Opportunity

We hear it all the time, “we aren’t sure exactly what we are looking for”.  Some companies just believe they need to be part of the newest tech trend, even though there isn’t a clear reason why.  So why have an innovation strategy at all?  It’s simple really, to clearly focus and align the innovation efforts of your team. These efforts need to ultimately connect with your overall business strategy. Innovation isn’t easy, it’s often a frustrating exercise inside of big companies.  Why do efforts to innovate often fail?  Here’s a hint: it’s not about execution.  The problem is routed in having a clearly defined Innovation Strategy that outlines the customer focused opportunities we want to tackle.

“A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.”
– Charles Kettering

Harvard Business defines strategy as a commitment to a set of coherent, mutually reinforcing policies or behaviors aimed at achieving a specific competitive goal. The best strategies align your team around goals, objectives and priorities.  While many have an overall business strategy, they do not have a specified Innovation Strategy.  Without a clear understanding of the competitive goal you are going after, you are likely to end up chasing down far too many ‘wrong-for-you’ innovations.  Shiny objects without a real purpose!

An innovation strategy is a plan to grow market share or profits through product or service innovation. Your innovation strategy should indicate which type of innovation your organization will work to achieve.   Innovation can fall into the following buckets: Sustaining, Breakthrough, New Market or Disruptive.

Always Start with the Customer

The difference between the winners and losers is simple. Products developed with senior management out in front of customers early and often – win. Products handed off to a sales and marketing organization that has only been tangentially involved in the new product development process lose. It’s that simple. – Steve Blank

No matter which type of innovation will be in play, it all starts with the customer.  A company must deeply understand the needs of the customer. Which of those needs are unmet? Who is in the best position to meet these needs and how?  Often a Startup understands an unmet need of a customer group better than the more mature company.  This is why Startups can ‘unhook’ an entire group of customers fairly quickly, without the big guy even noticing – at first.  The Innovation Scout exists to help you find these smart Startups before they undermine your market share.

What if an insurance company understood that an unmet need of customers is to get claims done faster and more efficiently without all of the red tape and paperwork?  Look no further than the insurance startup Lemonade (tagline: “Forget Everything You Know About Insurance”).  Lemonade offers homeowners and renters insurance that is powered by artificial intelligence and behavioral economics. They replace brokers and bureaucracy with bots and machine learning. Lemonade promises zero paperwork and instant everything!  Sounds good doesn’t it? They are on a meteoric rise less than two years after their first seed funding. Insurance companies: ignore Lemonade at your peril.

Describing issues from your customer’s perspective will focus all innovation efforts on what is most pressing: Growth.  Gain more customers or sustain the customers that you have, its that simple.

Create An Innovation Profile

The Innovation Scout uses an Innovation Profile to get at an underlying explanation of the problems you are trying to solve.  Start with the customer and tell the story of the future world from your customer’s perspective and you will begin to ‘think like a startup’.   Don’t start with the solution, start with the customer problem.

Here’s what we mean. Stating that you are looking for all companies that are working on Beacon technology is not a strong innovation profile statement. You are assuming an answer and not focusing on the problem. A statement like this is better:  Our vision is to continuously connect with our customers when they are in our physical stores. Entrepreneurs think that way.  “Gee wouldn’t it be great if”.

Big corporations can learn a lot from startups especially when it comes to framing a problem from the customer’s point of view.  The Innovation Scout will help you find startups and other innovations that apply to your Innovation Opportunity.

Try this: create an “innovation” problem statement that is aligned to your customers unmet needs. The best solutions are inextricably linked to a defining a proper problem.  Our Scout engine is tuned so it can find solutions relevant to your future vision. Unlike doing a search, we’ll give you a list of relevant startups and tell you why they relate to your opportunity.

The Innovation Scout will help you to find solutions to your customer’s unmet needs.  We present you with solutions that are ‘matched’ to your problem definition (Innovation Profile).  We can help you to create an innovation profile and deliver a list of appropriate startups to consider.  Just let us know how we can help.


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