How to shape your innovation strategy in only 5 days

Go from the blank page on Day One to multiple innovation blueprints on Day Five.
How to shape your innovation strategy in only 5 days

Getting the most out of fast-tracked innovation strategy sessions!

The innovation strategy sprint helped us to crystallize, simplify & structure our innovation strategy in a short amount of time, in contrast to traditional lengthy strategy processes.

Virginie Gonzalez - Head of innovation NN

We, at Board of Innovation, have pooled our extensive knowledge and experience with different innovation programs to create a new tool called the innovation strategy sprint, an accelerated strategy brainstorming session that takes place over five days. Companies like NN are at the forefront of trying out this week-long intensive for their corporate team. Since introducing the concept in a first blog post, the idea has piqued a lot of interest amongst those looking for quick and effective innovation jumpstarts.

But we have also heard some nervous shuffling in the offices of the traditional consultancy firms that produce lengthy audits and fancy reports. ‘So what costs us an entire year can actually be done in just one week?’ Yes, we said, it can.

To show you we’re not bluffing, we’ll guide you through the different stages of the sprint, day by day,

Day 1: Define

Rise and shine!

On Day One, we define your organization’s innovation mission statement. In order to get a complete view of the company and its innovation approach, we interview all the participants in the sprint: the innovation team, the business/strategy team and the HR-team. After all, innovation is still a people business. We make a list of external and internal drivers of innovation. Which opportunities can you grab, which disruptions could you counter? What is your corporate strategy, and how does innovation fit in?

We distill the innovation mission statement out of the internal and external drivers. This mission statement always contains 3 key elements:

  • culture

  • capability

  • project

In this stage – with 4 more days to go – we nail down the framework for your innovation strategy. This mission statement sets the ambition level for the sprint ahead. It raises the bar.

Day 2: Design

Now it’s time to turn the mission statement into concrete actions. Our innovation matrix will help you execute your mission.

The matrix gives an overview of innovation actions that we’ve identified the four types of innovators – hunters, builders, executers or experimenters – would undertake. According to research by CB Insights of 677 corporate strategy executives [JV1] , most corporate innovators are building internal capabilities, rather than acquiring innovation. They are 2.8 times more likely to build innovation capabilities of their own than to buy them. It’s no coincidence that capability is one of the three metrics that define our mission statement and builders are a key category in our innovation matrix.

Using the innovation matrix, we shape and prioritize the actions we’ll need to execute the innovation mission statement. We will put some actions on hold, speed up and sharpen other ones, and create brand new actions.

The goal is to end up with 5 to 10 actions. We’ll need to kill some darlings, but it wouldn’t be smart to put all our eggs in one basket either.

Day 3: Decide

Enter the CEO (or other executives with a mandate to call the shots). The innovation team presents the mission statement and the actions needed to execute it. The CEO validates the mission statement and the actions.

This might seem like a formality, but the C-level go ahead will obviously involve a lot of debate and probably some fine-tuning to the mission and the actions as well.

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Day 4: Design (part 2)

Back to the drawing table, the whiteboard and the flip-charts (and probably rivers of coffee as well) to make blueprints of the selected and validated actions.

For every action, the blueprint sums up 4 things:

Scope: Where are we heading with this action? What’s its purpose, and what are the intended results?

Process: How do we make sure the action achieves the intended results? What steps should we follow?

People: Who do we need on board to execute the action? Who will take the lead?

Resources: How much funding do we need to tackle the action? Do we have the right technology in place?

It’s crucial to realize that the innovation strategy sprint is no casual brainstorming session. It’s a kickstarter for innovation. That’s why strong targets are an essential part of every blueprint. Launch X new products or services, train Y people, start Z ventures: every action has clear and measurable KPI’s.

Day 5: Decide (part 2)

Here comes the CEO again.

At the finish line of the innovation strategy sprint, we need executive buy-in once again. The innovation strategy sprint can only fulfil its purpose when there’s a true commitment to start executing. A lot of CEO’s are conditioned to take decisions based on comprehensive plans, weighing all the pros and cons and carefully considering all the detailed calculations of every possible scenario. Now they suddenly have to say ‘yes’ to a blueprint, but with only half the plan in place, or less, than what they are used to seeing and deciding upon. That’s a different mindset. But it is necessary to grab opportunities and shake off disruptors. So is innovation.

We now have a clear blueprint containing actions and KPI's for the coming years. I would recommend this approach to any innovation executive since it drastically speeds up decision making.

Virginie Gonzalez - Head of innovation NN

Let's run an innovation strategy sprint

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