How to Develop an Innovation Strategy That Works for You

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January 16, 2024

The right innovation strategy can be the difference between leading the pack or playing catch-up. 

But innovation isn’t just about brainstorming sessions or adopting the latest technologies. It starts with laying a solid foundation, setting clear goals, and nurturing a culture that values fresh thinking. It’s about recognizing the innate innovator that we all have inside of us. 

In this article, you’ll find hands-on tips and ideas to shape an innovation strategy that truly works for you. 

Quick Takeaways

  • Innovation is about nurturing a space where new ideas can thrive, not just generating new concepts.
  • A strong approach mixes creative thinking with smart planning, always focused on clear,  realistic goals.
  • Innovation strategies shine when they align with business goals, nurture teamwork, and value every bit of feedback.
  • Keep in mind, there’s an innovator in everyone. Awakening this involves thinking freely and welcoming diverse viewpoints.

Laying the groundwork for innovation

To be a true innovator, you need to set the stage and create an environment where ideas can flourish. Here’s how you can lay out a solid foundation:

Embrace a fresh perspective

Seeing things differently is at the heart of groundbreaking ideas. Challenge the norm, look for new possibilities, and sometimes, find a hint of playfulness in your approach. 

Cultivate curiosity

Create a culture where teams dive deep, looking beyond the obvious. Encourage them to entertain unconventional thinking. Today’s quirky idea might just be tomorrow’s gold standard.

Value diversity

There’s a report from McKinsey & Company that shows how the number of women in leadership roles has risen since 2018. But there’s still a lot of room for improvement. 

graph shows that the number of women in leadership roles has risen, but there's still a lot of room for improvement

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Diversity is a key ingredient in the innovation mix. And no, not just in the typical sense of the word. Diverse thoughts, experiences, and perspectives lead to better ideas, turning good concepts into something that can lead an entire industry.

Understand the journey

Remember, innovation isn’t a destination. Coming up with new, great, and reliable ideas is about constantly exploring your thoughts and experiences. Learn from every step, whether it’s a leap forward or a minor stumble. Stay curious and be ready for surprises.

Crafting a robust innovation strategy

You might think that the right innovation strategy is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. But in reality, it’s about mixing creativity with a dash of structure. Here’s a roadmap to guide you along the path to success:

1. Define clear objectives

Start with your end game in mind. Ask yourself what it is that you want to target. When shaping your goals, lean on the “SMART” framework to make sure they’re Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

graphic outlines the “SMART” framework for defining clear objectives

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Whether you’re breaking into a new market, boosting the customer experience, or streamlining what happens behind the scenes, have a clear vision.

2. Embrace diverse inputs

Some of the best strategies come from a mix of different perspectives. Invite ideas from every nook and cranny of your organization. The finance team might see things differently from the marketing department, and that’s a good thing.

3. Stay informed

The world’s always on the move. Stay tuned to the latest industry trends, tech advancements, and consumer shifts. Staying informed means you can nimbly adjust your innovation strategy as needed.

4. Test and learn

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Experiment with pilot projects and prototypes – they’re gold mines of insight. If a plan doesn’t pan out, take it as a learning opportunity and pivot. Every step, even the missteps, are valuable lessons.

5. Foster a culture of feedback

Make sure there’s always a line open for feedback, from your team and your customers alike. Listening is often the springboard to your next great idea.

6. Review and refine

Remember, a strategy is never set in stone. It’s a living, breathing thing. As you move forward, regularly pause to reassess and refine. The goal is to stay flexible, ready to adapt to the changing tides of the business world.

Empowering a culture of innovative thought

It’s crucial to create a space where new ideas aren’t just born, but thrive. Here’s how to shape a culture that breathes innovation:

  • Align with business goals. Did you know that 54% of companies struggle to match their innovation strategy with their main business goals? You have to make sure everyone’s moving in the same direction.
graphic shows that 54% of companies struggle aligning innovation with business strategy

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  • Celebrate curiosity. Those who dare to ask “why” or “what if” bring massive value. Celebrate this inquisitive spirit and create spaces for it to flourish.
  • Foster collaboration. Often, the best ideas spark when different minds meet. Encourage collaboration across various departments to nurture these innovative seeds.
  • Invest in learning. Continuous learning is a cornerstone of innovative thinking. Give your team opportunities to learn and grow, be it through workshops or seminars.
  • Embrace failure as a stepping stone. Not every idea will hit the mark, and that’s perfectly fine. Treat each misstep as a stepping stone to greater things.
  • Encourage feedback. Feedback, whether from your team or customers, provides insights that can spark new ideas.

With the right approach and mindset, cultivating a culture ripe for innovation becomes a natural process.

Tapping into your innate innovator

Everyone has a spark of innovation. It’s that little voice that nudges you to think differently, question the norm, and step into the unknown. But how exactly do you tap into it?

Freedom to think

Give yourself the liberty to think without barriers.  The daily grind can box in your thinking. Sometimes, stepping away from the daily hustle can rekindle your innovative flame.

Diverse thinkers, diverse ideas

Surround yourself with people who think differently. This melting pot of perspectives can refine your ideas and sometimes lead you down an entirely new path.

A continuous journey

Remember, innovation isn’t about having a eureka moment. By nurturing your natural curiosity and staying open to new experiences, you’ll find your path to new ideas becomes much clearer.

Charting the path forward

Putting together a great innovation strategy calls for a blend of groundwork and smart planning. It’s also about fostering the right culture and tapping into the natural innovator in each of us. 

In the ever-shifting landscape of business, think of these elements as your guide, leading you to uncharted territories and making sure you’re always a step ahead in the game of change.

Ready to unlock your next great idea? As the world’s leading Innovation Architect, I can help. Read more on my blog page now, or email me today to learn how to nurture creative thinking.

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.