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Is Innovation a corporate-level strategy?

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Innovation strategies are often associated with the new design or reshaping of products, services, or markets as a way of producing new revenue streams. Since Covid, in the boardroom there is a new emphasis on business model innovations and changing the way the business operates by moving all or much of the business to digital. So now, when we talk innovation strategies this often involves digital transitions and business model innovations, as well as new offerings and markets. With digital transitioning becoming a “thing”, optimising systems and processes, and reducing the complexity in customer acquisition models are the part of the strategic thinking when it comes to innovation. What we are seeing are conversations about innovation happening outside of IT and the R&D silos inside corporations. We are seeing the innovation conversation broadening and affecting a larger number of employees. We are also seeing the growth in innovation platforms and models prolificate the market, as corporations grapple to build innovation capabilities. We are seeing innovation managers being headhunted and innovation teams built. This trend started pre-Covid and Covid has hastened the innovation discussion. Now, as the world moves in and out of lockdown, as vaccination roll outs re-open the world, what we are seeing are changes to how we work continue post lockdown. Working from home is commonplace, and so are virtual and hybrid teams. In the boardroom, innovation is strengthening as an agenda item.


Often referred to as innovation theatre within the corporate world. A term where innovation is perceived as a positive political manoeuvre, a word which is often talked about, used in conversations, and at meetings and voted on to do something about, but nothing is ever done. Innovation is a theatrical performance. On occasions companies have head hunted a person to lead the innovation charge, to bring about the much-needed change, often talked about in the boardroom. What happens too often, is the Innovation Manager doesn’t have the resources, or a supportive culture, people skilled in delivering on innovations, or money to fund the necessary changes. Money is often diverted to other “known” and traditional ways of doing business. You see the problem with innovation is that it is risky. There is much unknown, and too much uncertainty, and there is no way of knowing if the company will become the disrupter rather than the disrupted. Pushing the boundaries on innovation and transitioning the business sounds great on paper. Undertaking innovation is another thing. You see, whilst there is strong agreement that innovation is necessary to grow new revenue streams and to build new business models, and helpful in finding a new competitive edge, not many really understand innovation or the practice of innovation and what it entails.


When trying to understand innovation we see the term innovation leadership, which asserts the executive, or those just below the executive suite, are influencing the IT, R&D, or new product development divisions to bring their new ideas and create new revenue streams associated with products, services, markets, IT solutions, or cost saving measures. We are seeing traditional methods employed and innovation theatre continue. We are seeing talk of big ideas, the next big disrupter or ideas that make an impact. What we are not seeing is culture shift towards acceptance of innovation. We are not seeing a shift towards a process, where everyone in the organisation is contributing to the bubbling up of great ideas and pushing the boundaries on those ideas, as together, we build a business vision towards 2050.


The question of whether innovation is a corporate strategy continues to come up. In an ideal company, innovation is everyone’s business. Innovation isn’t a top-down strategy. Innovation and new ideas ideally, should come from every area of the corporation. Developing an innovative culture is asking of its people to have a mindset shift, that asks, “how can we improve……” Rather than pointing fingers, blaming, or complaining about others. Innovation is about asking questions, seeking to understand different points of view, finding ways to make the workplace happier, easier, and better for everyone.

Many organisations say they would like their leaders to be more innovative and to create innovative teams, but are unclear on how they should support them, and build a climate of reciprocal trust, where people feel OK to ask different questions or to try something new, or ok to fail. Innovation involves understanding people, building trust, and looking for new ways of improving systems, processes, offerings, or savings. There are high levels of agreement that employees want improvement and want a happier work environment. Often the HR division are under pressure to upskill employee capabilities and bring about new professional development solutions. They are courted by many professional development platforms and courses and decisions are often made on the basis of price. Too often, employees see professional development as a tick box for their performance review, rather than an opportunity to upskill and implement new ideas. The questions remain, how do we roll out innovation company-wide? How do we create an innovative culture that holds everyone accountable for innovation, that expects everyone to focus on improvement, and that asks of its employees, and its executives, to ask new questions and produce innovative results.


Here at Leadingrowth we are interested in opening up the dialogue and having the conversation about how we can support people interested in undertaking innovation within their company. We are interested in helping leaders ask different questions or do business unusual. Our focus is on lifting the bar on innovation. We want to help leaders navigate the nay-sayers, the complex approval processes, and the hurdles, roadblocks, and mindsets that can stifle great ideas before they are implemented. We want to support and empower leaders to move their teams happier and faster through the innovation pipeline. Let’s work together and improve how we innovate. Let us help you to put on your super cape and power through the innovation pipeline implementing those great ideas that make an impact and improve the lives of people. At Leadingrowth, we do this by helping leaders develop new strategies addressing the question of “how do we move forward” so that those great ideas do move forward towards implementation. We believe that building innovation capabilities isn’t just about understanding the process. The process is only part of the story. Building innovation capabilities is more than the process, it is about asking new questions, hearing everyone’s perspective, developing happy teams, strengthening trust, and building relationships, having happier work environments, improving how we collaborate, being bold, having commonplace difficult conversations, supporting people and teams to think of solutions that benefit everyone, and being brave enough to ask how we can improve?

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