What is an innovation strategy?

An innovation strategy is a commitment to a common innovation mission and a structured set of activities which aim to support the future growth of the organization.

What does an innovation strategy actually look like?

No two innovation strategies are the same. But they should all, at the very least, outline the goal of your organization’s innovation activities and the key initiatives that will help you achieve it.

Buy-in from stakeholders is essential. For this reason, good innovation strategies are simple, clear, and easily understood by everybody involved.

If everyone has the same map (and can read it), everyone can be aligned on the destination without arguing about the directions.

How did we develop these examples?

The largest and most innovative organizations in the world have clear innovation strategies. While they’re private about the specifics (our clients included), there are ways to determine what their innovation strategies look like from the outside in. That’s because different innovation activities enable different strategic results.

Using our innovation matrix tool as a lens, we’ve assessed some of the main initiatives run by organizations like Apple, Amazon, Samsung, and Google.

We aim to give you an indication of what their balanced strategic innovation portfolios are comprised of.

5 innovation strategy examples from this guide

1. The innovation strategy of Microsoft

While incremental innovations have seen Microsoft thrive in recent years, the company has struggled to achieve radical innovation. That may soon change. These days, Microsoft’s innovation strategy involves going all in on R&D with the aim of advancing its position in a range of markets – including healthcare.

2. The innovation strategy of Google

Google’s innovation initiatives are all over the matrix, so it’s difficult to assign them just one innovation archetype. Its parent company, Alphabet, invests heavily in R&D, which indicates that it’s targeting disruptive, radical, and architectural innovation.

3. The innovation strategy of Apple

Apple used to outsource R&D initiatives, preferring instead to focus on product development. But these days, they’re developing competencies in-house through internal accelerators while also acquiring startups.

4. The innovation strategy of Samsung

Samsung’s strategy has traditionally been all about incremental innovation (its curved mobile phone screens are a prime example). The organization’s innovation action plan in recent years has been to diversify its portfolio. Its R&D arm is exploring AI, digital health, the Internet of Things, autonomous mobility, data-center infrastructure, security, privacy and more. Samsung also strategically invests in a range of external initiatives to co-create businesses.

5. The innovation strategy of Amazon

Having achieved the impossible feat that is keeping its startup culture while scaling up, innovation is ingrained in every part of Amazon’s culture – not just the R&D arm.