Top Tips for Innovation Strategy and Ideation

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These are 6 things that companies looking to become innovation leaders should know when looking to get their innovation engine humming.

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With increased market disruption, technology advancement, and escalating consumer expectations, it’s becoming ever more challenging for businesses to know where to focus their innovation resources.

Building long-term success means having well-established and effective innovation strategy and ideation processes, which serve to continually identify potential opportunities for their current and future business ecosystems.

Here are 6 things we talk about with innovation leaders who are working to get their company’s innovation engine humming:

1.      Reframe your core

Rethinking and reframing the business you are really in can be one of the most powerful unlocks for inspiring innovation, especially in long-established industries. But this shouldn’t just be a desktop exercise; it’s important that this reframe comes from rich insight into the role your products and services play in your customers' lives today as well as foresight about how that might change in future. 

Done well, a reframe will radically open up a set of challenges to solve and opportunities for the business to create value in consumers’ lives.

2.      Rethink your competitor set

Along with the new opportunities from a powerful reframe, come a new set of competitors – some obvious and some less so. More than simply identifying the big corporate players you're looking to disrupt or the cohort of well-heeled start-ups going after the same prize (although these are still critical to understand) – it’s also about understanding who currently occupies this space in your customer’s hearts and minds? What individuals, brands or home-brew hacks are serving this need today? Who else has their attention at critical occasions and experiences? Answering these types of questions will ensure you have a 360° view of who, what and where your real competition will be.

3.      Keep one eye to the horizon

Scanning markets and technologies for threats and opportunities isn’t a new concept in business. But widening competitor sets create more potential blindspots, and disruption exacerbates this. The result? Horizons that used to be5-years can now be 2-years or less, making horizon scanning more complex, more involved, more assumptive and more important than ever before. 

The key is having structures in place to ensure connections and collisions between teams, data points and hunches happen quickly and often, meaning opportunities are identified before they become a published ‘trend’ –by then, it’s normally too late.

4.      Turn fiction into reality    

Identifying opportunities means nothing if you don’t turn them into action. As more businesses seek to build their innovation capability and the lines between industries blur, big opportunities won’t remain opportunities for long. Being able to experiment, learn, and then capitalise on the opportunity the fastest is possibly the biggest greatest innovation challenge NZ corporates face today. 

While it’s not always possible to create the future straight away, investing in capability building around this critical area is a common theme among successful innovators - baby steps at a sprinter’s pace.

5.      Start story-telling the future

When bringing people with you when searching for opportunities on more ambitious horizons, it’s helpful to paint a picture of a future that doesn’t yet exist. Some of the biggest innovation successes for corporate juggernauts like Spark, Electronic Arts and Jaguar Land Rover have come from co-creating and colliding character-rich narratives about the futures that they hope to play a central role in.  

For a great example of this, have a look at the way we helped Spark envision the future of their category and business, and then convey that in a richly through video – both to communicate that vision to their customers, and to solidify the vision for themselves.

6.      Don’t think of it like a one-night stand

The act of reframing, horizon scanning, storytelling and taking immediate action shouldn’t be a one-time thing. The rate of change in the world will continue to force businesses through this exercise more and more frequently. The front-end innovation processes of discovery and direction-setting need to act as an ever-turning flywheel which keeps the business thinking three steps ahead. 

Envision, align, create, repeat.

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