Creating An Innovation Strategy 5

Using Your Map And Compass


This is the final blog in a five-part series about innovation strategy. The previous blog examined the activities you manage and perform to create a strategy. This blog offers tools for implementing your strategy.

Reading Your Map

Just as a topographic map contains lines of longitude and latitude, your map contains vertical time phases and horizontal sets of activities to be performed. And just as you use lat-long to orient yourself on a map, you can use the intersection of phases and activities to orient yourself and others to navigate strategy implementation.

The planning process you chose should have had time phases and activities built in. Some are basic to any strategic planning process, and some are unique to innovation strategy as discussed in Planning Your Trek. Basic phases include situation/environmental analysis, direction-setting, assignment and alignment of activities, and then execution, monitoring, and evaluation. Basic activities include interviewing, reading reports, analyzing data, vision development exercises, developing goals and measures, etc. Create a phase-activity matrix to help you locate any activity in relation to others, and to phases. This is especially important in iterative and processes, and will help you sync to the requirements hierarchy.

Whichever strategic planning framework you use, consider how it helps you accomplish and refresh requirements in the hierarchy. While those levels are not strictly temporal, their refinement progresses over time through iterative and incremental deliberations and decisions. Your strategy development phases and activities should support that activity.

Another important read to make with your map is phase transitions. In addition to those required by the framework you choose, the following conditions signal you’re ready to transition to another phase of development:

  • Situation/environmental Analysis. Priority customers and stakeholders contributed to and agree to the analysis. They understand and support the requirements hierarchy down to the Capability Requirement, and project sponsors/decision makers approve the statements.
  • Direction-setting. Priority customers and stakeholders understand the relationship between their requirements and interests and the direction set. They understand and support the requirements hierarchy down to the Performance Requirement, and project sponsors/decision makers approve the statements.
  • Activity Assignment and Alignment. Priority customers and stakeholders contributed activities as inputs and believe the relationship between activities and outcomes will satisfy their requirements and interests. They understand and support the requirements hierarchy down to the Functional Requirements, and project sponsors/decision makers approve the statements.

When you’re looking at the intersection of an activity and a phase to see what comes next, involve the right parties in the right ways based on what they can contribute to improve the organization’s innovation capability. Use your customer analysis, stakeholder analysis, communication plan, or change management plan to determine who should be involved how, when, and to what end.

Using Your Compass

Your compass is a set of tools which you use to take readings, adjust direction, and proceed. You use the tools by facilitating conversations to decisions. Your compass is composed of four tools you use to orient yourself to others to stand up of a productive innovation center.

  1. Definition. The definition of innovation is your first and most basic tool. You should anchor everything to the three parts of the definition – doing something different, to add value, for a customer. Facilitating conversation around these will focus participants on the right things and help people regroup if they get lost in the process.
  2. Questions. No one can do something different to add value for a customer without asking questions, and the definition gives you the most basic questions you can ask: What could I do differently, to add what value, for which customer? Those questions lead to many more. Also ask Why, What If, and How questions. Why questions reveal purpose, objectives, outcomes, or the ends to which we do something. How questions reveal means, steps, process ideas. What if questions reveal new ideas and possibilities. Asking Why, What If, and How questions will illuminate different angles and avenues into innovation. They're especially useful for turning conflicts and constraints inside-out and making them useful.
  3. Requirements. Requirements are attributes of a product, service or system necessary to produce an outcome that satisfies a customer. In this case, the strategy is the product and its attributes are the ways it guides conversations, decisions, and actions. Filling out the requirements hierarchy will clarify your thinking and make your strategy more effective by aligning important means-ends relationships in its development.
  4. Reactions. Doing something different predictably causes many reactions in many people – positive/negative, supportive/opposed, committed/resistant, and on and on. All reactions contain valuable information, particularly the not so favorable reactions. Reading the effect of your actions, and others, can regularly show you how you’re going to do something different that adds value for a customer. By tracking reactions you can iteratively and incrementally check where you are and where you’re headed, as questions lead to conversations and then decisions.


Innovation is a business proposition for government, and the most effective innovation strategy offers strong support to business strategy. It envisions how innovation supports the mission. It devises ways to continuously add value to customers and the organization in a constantly changing environment. And it enables people to reconnect to one other and the mission.

I hope you found a few useful ideas in this series. Read my complete paper on Creating an Innovation Strategy .

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