The first question here is why is it necessary to have an innovation strategy at all? Surely part of being innovative is ripping up the rule book, just get cracking. Right? Not necessarily. The process of gathering people together to discuss and agree on what you want to achieve from your purposeful approach to innovation is an essential starting place. Agreeing on direction, defining a set of priorities and having a clear set of objectives is key to getting the most out of your innovation initiative.
Here are our top tips on getting your innovation strategy right:
1. Identify the challenges you are trying to solve through your innovation strategy?
Where are you right now? What are you known for? What isn’t working? What are you trying to address or change through the delivery of your strategy?
Tip: Provide a clear link between your innovation strategy and the overall long-term strategy of the firm. If it feels disjointed or irrelevant, teams will find it harder to connect the dots and may be slower to engage.
2. Define what you mean by innovation
Do you want to set up an incubator, where you are supporting start-ups and providing opportunities for different businesses to collaborate together and learn from each other? Or, are you looking to create a programme which focuses on changing the way your teams work to deliver services to your clients? Does this include continuous improvements or only genuinely innovative ideas?
Tip: Be explicit about the scope of your initiative. Identify what is the vision for the future. State what will be different.
3. Analyse the opportunities and threats
Where are the biggest opportunities? Where are the biggest threats? Can you begin to develop new partnerships? Can you open up new markets? How will you retain existing clients in the longer term? Are your services still relevant? How could you involve BD and Marketing teams? BD and Marketing teams can bring great insights into what is happening in the market place and can share knowledge about what questions clients are asking about innovative practices in tenders.
Tip: Invest time in understanding what is happening in your marketplace. Ensure you have sufficient analyst capabilities.
4. Put the client at the heart of your strategy
If you really understand the needs of your customer, you will put yourself ahead of the competition. The key here is that client’s needs are changing, rapidly. So understanding what problems they have to solve is completely essential.
Tip: Ask yourself some searching questions
- Have you spent time stepping through the customer experience? Does it wow?
- Do you do client listening? What could you learn from doing this?
- How can you delight your customers? How will your innovations deliver further value? Can you reduce their costs or meet more needs for the same price?
5. Define priorities
Recognise that you cannot do everything at once. Agree what are the essential building blocks of your strategy which you must tackle. Agree the objectives, success measures and timeframes.
Tip: Don’t forget to take baseline measurements so you can see how far you have progressed.
6. Identify the reinforcing structures required
You will need to put in place a range of reinforcing structures to support the delivery of your innovation strategy. For example, if we look at 3 different areas
- HR: In order for your strategy to be executed effectively do you currently have all the required skills in house? Will capability development be required? Will new career paths become necessary? How will you promote development opportunities? Is a new behavioural framework required? Will there be innovation targets? How will this link to your performance management approach?
- Finance: How will the innovation priorities be supported through incentives, KPIs and rewards? How will people be released from their day jobs to become involved in the initiatives?
- IT: Do you have sufficient delivery capability if the number of tech related projects increases significantly? Does your team have the right mix of experience and capabilities as the type of projects change?
Tip: Break these down into distinct areas and work with teams to understand what supporting structures need to be put in place or improved. Do you have a robust change function to ensure that these initiatives will land well within your organisation? If not, this should be considered as part of the strategy discussions.
7. Agree accountabilities
It is critical to ensure accountabilities and responsivities are clearly defined.
TIP: you need to book periodic reviews to track progress against the on objectives.
To be successful you will need the full support of your Board and Partner Group.
Tip: Engaging these key groups early and often enough is vital to ensure there are opportunities for discussion and challenges. Get out there and encourage all of those who have worked on the strategy to be advocates and role models, by talking to Partners about why it is important, the list of priority areas which you want to focus on and the role you need them to play in supporting the implementation of the strategy.
When you are ready to communicate your strategy, it is easy to use traditional methods to deliver your message. However, this is the perfect time to be innovative.
Tip: Don’t just communicate – engage! This is your opportunity to change it up. Use new communication and engagement channels, rather than email and your intranet. You must engage with teams, encouraging them to participate. Real engagement comes when people feel something is authentic and something they want and can contribute to. So it is vital that there is not a fanfare for the first 2 months after the strategy launch and then it fades to becomes a distant memory. Participation needs to be continually encouraged, to help innovation become part of a firm’s DNA.
For more information about innovation initiatives in your firm, please contact Tiggy Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 07826850191.