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Creating An Innovation Strategy 3

Checking The Terrain

5Jan

This is the third blog in a five-part series about innovation strategy. The previous blog described how to pick a destination for your strategy and orient to it. This blog examines the organizational, customer and market environments in which you’ll develop and develop your strategy.

What Terrain?

Your terrain is the entire environment in which you create and deploy an innovation strategy. This includes organizational, operational, and market environments. These converge in your innovation strategy to supply requirements, needs, interests, constraints, influences, forces, trends, opportunities and more. To orient yourself and others in this space, you’ll need ways to understand how your strategy impacts and is impacted by these environments.

Organizational Environment

The organizational environment includes all the people, processes, resources, requirements, constraints – everything within the boundaries of the organization creating the innovation strategy. Not just the organizational unit leading strategy development, but the entire enterprise.

Many parts of your organization work in concert to deliver value to customers every day, and the act of creating an innovation strategy can destabilize that environment. Mere talk doing something different raises eyebrows, so a concerted effort to create a strategy is sure to escalate reactions. You can use an enterprise org chart to locate strategy development in relation to all other business units and track the impact of strategy on the organization, and vice versa.

The business unit leading the strategy is an epicenter of shockwaves that travel across the organization, and back. Use the chart to map issues, risks, concerns, reactions – any information that will help the organization craft an effective strategy. Use the chart to communicate up, down, and across lines, and to manage participation in strategy development conversations, decisions, and actions.

An effective change management strategy will also help track the impact of strategy on the organization, and vice versa. It should help you think about organizational reactions to the strategy’s development; act to incorporate views, needs, and interests; continuously scan the organizational environment to understand how strategy development impacts and is impacted by it; and create and recreate conditions for developing an effective strategy. There are many frameworks from which to choose.

Operational Environment

A strategy’s operational environment is the space strategy owners intend to impact. It includes those who should benefit by the strategy’s execution (primary customers) plus those who care about how you serve primary customers (supporting customers). This group is large in government and can include suppliers, partners, your chain-of-command, sister organizations, other federal/state/local government agencies, congressional members and committees, NGOs, watch dog groups, media/trade press – the list goes on. Doing something different to add value for primary stakeholders usually satisfies secondary stakeholders’ interests.

A primary customer’s environment includes everything that impacts their role, responsibilities, authority, competencies, and activities – the things for which the innovation strategy should add value. Just like you, customers have requirements, needs, interests, enablers, constraints, influences, and forces operating on them that they must successfully manage to perform their job. An innovation strategy that does its job meets a customer mission need or closes a capability gap they have their own requirements hierarchy.

There are many models from which to choose in organizing your thinking about the customer. Understanding and mapping the customer experience, especially digital experience, is a growing priority in government and many agencies have developed or adapted models you can reuse. Various customer-centered and human-centered design methods view the customer in ways more or less relevant depending on the purpose of the innovation strategy and nature of innovations planned. Pick one and use it to engage customers for ideas about the strategy’s requirements.

Market Environments

Markets for technology and business innovations are everywhere. They’re in the commercial sector, the not-for-profit sector, and all of government – including state and local government. Relevant strategy ideas might also be in overseas companies and foreign governments innovating beyond your organization’s horizon.

Because innovation ideas and opportunities exist in fields where government isn’t traditionally engaged, many agencies are hard at work discovering them and establishing relationships. Your strategy can manage this challenge by engaging subject matter experts in the areas you expect to innovate, and by communicating through networks to which they belong. An organization can tap networks of networks this way and extend its reach.

The investment community is an under-utilized source of information about innovation generally, and about technology innovations in particular. Challenges, SBIRs, grants, FFRDCs, and R&D programs are avenues to consider in your strategy. And a strategy would likely benefit from considering universities, professional associations, government associations, not-for-profits, trade press and other nodes in nontraditional networks.

Most of the ideas relevant to your strategy probably exist in the parties you know or can reach through stakeholders. Taking a few extra steps can open new business and technology markets to you containing people, ideas, and solutions that will make your strategy more effective.

What Next?

The next blog in this series, Planning Your Trek, examines the activities you’ll manage and perform to create an innovation strategy.

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