How to align innovation with your strategy
by Ady Harold, on 21 Dec 2021 6 min read
Innovation has to serve a purpose. If it doesn’t align with your overall business strategy, you’re wasting time and money. Here’s how to make sure innovation is helping you achieve your business goals.
Innovation is king, right? Well, that depends. Innovation for its own sake can end up being nothing more than a court jester; a distraction that costs you a lot and achieves very little.
Ultimately, the point of your innovation programme is simple: it should help you reach your strategic goals. In order to do this, you need to ensure your innovation projects are carefully aligned with your organisational goals.
So where do you begin? How do you differentiate between ‘innovation theatre’ and innovation that serves your business objectives?
That’s where we come in. Solverboard is designed to help you to align your innovation projects with your overall business strategy. Here’s how we do it...
If we’ve made it all sound simple, it isn’t. Aligning your innovation projects with your strategy is one thing, but when you're in the middle of a project and ideas are in free flow, it’s not always easy to remain focused on your organisational objectives. That’s why you need a system. You need a method to set strategic goals and prioritise the innovative ideas that will help you achieve them.
Set innovation goals that align with your organisation's strategy
Solverboard always starts with goals. What are your organisational goals and strategy? This has to be the start point because the innovation goals you're going to set need to serve this strategy. For most businesses, the two primary elements of their strategy will be: where to play and how to win.
'Where to play' identifies the markets, sectors or industries your business wants to target. 'How to win' is about identifying your unique value proposition, your differentiator. These two key areas should inform your innovation goals and strategy. Firstly, are these strategic objectives being met? If not, how can your innovation projects help to overcome challenges in your chosen markets and improve your unique value proposition?
You may also like to: Identify your business challenges and turn them into innovation goals
The next thing to think about is what your innovation goals look like. Innovative solutions come from creative ideas and lateral thinking. If you make your goals too specific, you could end up writing tactics rather than strategy, thereby limiting the scope of your innovation. When you keep your goals broad and high-level, you keep the door open for people to get creative and radical – this is when the most ground-breaking innovation happens. However, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between broad and vague.
For example, saying, ‘we want to increase our profits,’ is broad but too unspecific. Saying, ‘we want to increase our market share,’ is much more clear and actionable. You can immediately identify that this is a customer-driven goal centred around the challenge of selling more to your target market. This type of goal is clear enough to be measurable yet open enough to inspire creativity.
Set OKRs for your goals
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a method used for goal-setting. Originally developed by Peter Drucker (and later built on by Andy Grove) at Intel, OKR is now used by thousands of companies around the world, including Netflix, Airbnb and LinkedIn. Like the SMART acronym, it helps to break down each objective into measurable key actions that will help you achieve it.
Once you’re clear on your Objectives, you need to create 3-5 Key Results for each one. Keep them short, simple, exciting, and – above all – measurable. You want your team to feel inspired and engaged so the more targeted and punchy your Key Results, the better.
The final thing to remember is that OKRs are no use if you set them and then forget about them. You need to carry out regular follow-ups and track the progress of each Key Result and Objective. If you’re reaching 100% of all your goals, they’re too easy, so think about how you can make them more challenging. You might need to change the types of Key Results you’re setting or perhaps simply increase the numbers.
Objective: Land more customers than last quarter
Key Result 1: 50,000 click-throughs on our advert
Key Result 2: Achieve 2,000 signups
Key Result 3: 50% lower bounce rate on our landing page.
It’s easy to see from the example how OKRs provide a clear, measurable roadmap for how to achieve your objective. If your Objective is where you want to go, the Key Results are your how.
On Solverboard, once you’ve set your OKRs you have a number of tools at your disposal to track your progress. Our platform allows you to share your OKRs with colleagues and set their status so that your whole team can see them. You can also motivate and engage your team by setting a progress slider so that you can all see what you’ve achieved. When your Key Result is achieved, you can leave a comment for your team and make the result visible for everyone to see.
How to score ideas on their goal alignment
You’ve set goals that align with your strategy and you’ve set OKRs for those goals, but how do you determine if an idea truly aligns with your overall strategy? This is where you need clear metrics and tools. It can be easy to fall in love with an impressive idea - but does it serve your strategy?
On Solverboard, we call this our ‘review’ process; our platform has all the tools you need to assess how well the idea aligns with your organisational goals. If the idea meets the necessary criteria, the next stage is ‘graduation’: testing and progressing the idea for the next stage of the journey.
As you can see in this example, you use the score slider to give a score between 1 (for minimal alignment) and 10 (for significant alignment). If there are subgoals, you can score each idea against these as well – the platform uses the maximum score across all goals to determine the overall idea score.
Goal assessment is just one part of the graduation process. Our platform also examines the scale of the innovation, the time frame, and what type of innovation it is (business model or product, for example). Once your idea has been through this full assessment, it’s up to you to decide whether to archive the idea or graduate it for testing.
Innovation might sound sexy and cool – and in many ways it is. But when it comes to business, it has to serve a clear purpose. It has to add value. Doing it for the sake of doing it won’t help you grow your business or meet your objectives. However, when innovation is carefully aligned with your organisational strategy, it has the power to set you apart from the competition and take your business to new heights.
Our platform is designed to help you manage all aspects of your innovation process. Get started today by setting up your free one month trial.