Evaluation and measures Processes Technological innovation Vision & strategy

Innovate: Ideas or strategy?

It is a fairly generalized fact to believe that innovation starts with “ideas”. According to this hypothesis, ideas are first raised and then become innovations. Therefore, it is assumed that a structured innovation process begins with the generation of ideas.

The thing must come from tradition and that research, both scientific and technological, was based on “discoveries”, in a way based on chance, and also on individual genius. In a way, maybe we’re confusing innovation with creativity.

But the practical work in innovation processes shows us that we could be years and years producing ideas, selecting among them, turning some into projects and developing these projects until obtaining results without success. A precious consumption of time and resources.

With this we would realize that perhaps this is not the way in which innovation occurs in reality, nor that it is an effective guide to how it should be managed.

Experience shows that the most successful companies with the most innovative continuity tend to be those that start from a strategic perspective. That is, identifying first and in accordance with their own vision, their strategic objectives, key trends in society and technological development, to define their future opportunities.
On them, assess their possibilities, develop detailed benefit / risk models, and within the uncertainty of innovative development, focus on those ideas that can best achieve the strategic objectives.
This would show “possible innovation areas” that already specify what kind of ideas should work and set possible investments in innovation.

That is, innovation would really begin in the strategic capacity to anticipate changes and opportunities, and to develop “specific areas” to generate ideas. More than a pure and hard generation of ideas.

Permanent or eventual innovation

At this point I would like to distinguish between sporadic or eventual innovation and permanent innovation.

In the first case it may be closer to a process that comes from an initial idea and is used to start a new business model. Normally we would talk about a ‘startup’ or a small company. The generation of ideas and their selection and filtering would in these cases be the appropriate model.

On the other hand, in larger companies, permanent innovation is more necessary, in order to maintain its leadership, continuously innovating and what is more difficult, with success.

Permanent innovation is a continuous process of innovation, a matter of strategy, method and habit.

Organizations that adopt innovation as a core value, practice innovation with a proven methodology and produce innovations with consistent results.

The permanent innovation is, therefore, a human and strategic process, beyond the purely technological, and excellence is achieved through the proper repetition of the correct methods.

The concept of permanent innovation can be surprising at the beginning or even seem a contradiction. Doing something continuously and with method implies stability and a certain absence of change, while the concept of innovation is associated with change and novelty. The combination of the two, however, produces an important synthesis:

It’s the practice of innovation not as an occasional event, but as a repetition, a process of creation of value and organizational adaptation. And even in the ‘startups’, or in the cases of companies that are born from an innovative idea or those that take advantage of a good idea at an opportune moment, there could be a strategic decision in the field, the sector, model or market niche. on which you aspire to influence.

Testing innovation process


Since April 2013, we have on this website a basic evaluation tool to measure the management of innovation and the ability to innovate of companies and organizations.

The results are presented in the 6 or 12 areas that we considered important for the success of the innovation process and the creation of an innovative culture.
The tool consists of a questionnaire with 50 questions, presented in 5 tables with 10 questions related to 5 areas: Management, Marketing and sales, Research and Development, processes and measures and the work environment.

From this evaluation tool we have extracted two questionnaires with the questions that measure the areas we are talking about:

  • Vision and strategy
  • Generate ideas and concepts; filter and select

You can respond to both lists and assess the specific case of your organization. It is important to bear in mind that in the two questionnaires we refer to companies that practice or want to practice permanent innovation. It does not apply in cases of sporadic or eventual innovation.

Questionnaire 1.- Vision and strategy

Shared vision -


The company has a vision of its future and transmits it to all members in a way that creates a 'shared vision'. Regarding innovation, the same goes for each project or program, creating a vision of the same that all participants share. Everyone knows the basic objectives of the project and a head of management in the team or innovation committee that makes decisions in the selection of all projects and programs and formally reviews them.

Information and knowledge -


Management recognizes that information and knowledge are essential for innovation. A distinction is made between data, information and knowledge. There are procedures for the management of data, information and the creation of knowledge that ensure their proper use. Knowledge is structured so that it can be used, both tacit and explicit.

Environment. -


Methods and systems are used to evaluate and criticize the "current position" in all fields of action and develop a "peripheral vision" of the business sector, through benchmarking, groups of analysis, etc. This is reflected in the premises to define a business or project strategy.

R & D. -


The Management allocates to R & D a higher % than the average of the sector, through its own area of research and development and / or through alliances and external collaborations. New concepts, products or technologies that can be used internally or externally are researched and developed. The company adequately protects the results of its research, the knowledge and technology generated, through patents, royalties, licenses, or other procedures.

Entrepreneurship. -


Management defines the strategy, innovation projects, action plans, etc., and the entrepreneurial spirit of people hardly has a place in the day to day of the company. It is difficult to develop new ideas, to undertake new projects or to modify the strategic lines defined, the initiatives do not usually succeed.

Strategy. -


The company has formulated its strategy in which, clearly, includes change and innovation. The strategy is known at all levels and is summarized in a clearly understandable form on one page or short document. Innovation is an important part to prepare the future. Strategy and innovation are something inseparable and that reaches the day to day of each one.

Strategy / Innovation link. -


There is a clear link between the company's strategy and innovation projects and programs, so they reinforce each other. The innovation team or committee defines the teams responsible for each project and its sponsor or liaison with the management.

Forecasts -


The company is based on the forecasts. Both to formulate the current plan and to review the strategy and formulate or decide on new projects. Recognized methods are used to systematically explore the environment and the future, with forecasting techniques and tools. Changes, threats and opportunities are considered.

Innovation process


The company shows with practice and time, that innovation is not something discontinuous or eventual, but is based on a continuous and structured process. The process is defined in the company and in progress, which allows us to effectively manage the development of all projects and programs. All departments and areas are involved in this process.

The results value the average obtained in the questions, considering a score of 3.5 as good, 4.5 excellent and less than 2.5 as need improvement.

Questionnaire 2.- Ideas

About generating ideas and concepts:

Ideas and concepts -


There is a favourable climate for new ideas and there are no exits of people from the organization to make them come true. The generation of ideas and proposals in all aspects and all areas, products, concepts or categories is systematically sought. We have adapted methods and tools that we use systematically to think "out of the box". We work in multidisciplinary teams and in parallel. All are involved in the proposal of new ideas to improve products or processes.

Accelerated design -


We work with concurrent engineering and design techniques to accelerate the development of projects, processes, prototypes, tests and launches. This parallel execution is carried out with multifunctional equipment that works with requirements or specifications that consider the needs of users, customers, production, supply, distribution, etc. Advanced tools are used for this purpose.

"Technological surveillance".


We use advanced techniques for the process of "technological surveillance". We review the new scientific and technological advances, changes in habits in the market and what it means for the strategy of our company.

Design on request. -


There is a clear distinction between the design of basic products and the specific variations for a single customer or order. The design on request is recognized as a process different from the normal process. The design on demand quickly produces results that meet the requirements and with the expected profitability. The planning and control of the project is properly integrated with the planning and control of the production.

About filtering and selecting:

Business filters -


We use "business filters" and other methodologies to continuously evaluate new ideas and projects, according to the strategy, before continuing them. One of the business filters is to identify and exploit our competitive advantages, in accordance with our value proposition to the client. We rely on trial and error methods to explore new directions in markets and technologies.

Simulations -


We use simulation, analysis of "business plans" and other suitable techniques to explore future results in the selection of proposals and the analysis of new projects.

Strategic management of products and portfolio. -


The management of the portfolio and product strategy is a defined process and clearly links current and anticipated products with customers and the market, current and future. It is based on the key competences and technology of the company. The flow of innovation is defined and drives the company's development objectives and its competitive position.

Reuse of ideas and concepts. -


The company favours the identification of opportunities and has created mechanisms to "take advantage of" the ideas and projects that are not carried out because they do not fit. They practice or have practiced licenses or "spin off". There have also been alliances or "joint ventures", when the plan shows that the resources are not enough to follow.

The results obtained can be compared with those that result from performing the complete test. In addition, an action plan can be prepared by reviewing the questions with the lowest score.

Author

Francesc Guell is the owner of this site. He was CEO and director of international companies in specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The last 12 years was associated with international consulting groups, providing advice and support to businesses on topics such as innovation and agile innovation processes, operational excellence, knowledge management, change management, strategy and integrated business management. Currently creates and presents courses and workshops on these topics. He graduated as a chemical engineer, postgraduate from ESADE Business School in Business Administration and Master in Knowledge Management. He participated in numerous programs, seminars and ESADE, IESE, EADA, APD and MCE (Management Centre Europe). He is author of articles, presentations and courses on innovation in strategic management, integrated business models, knowledge management, performance measurement, change management and excellence in business processes. See more in: Professional Profile