Taking the first steps toward innovation

Taking the first step
Confucius famously said that a journey of 1,000 miles starts with one step. However that first step on the journey can be very difficult, whether it is giving up smoking, changing your lifestyle or implementing change in an organization. At Strategos, we find that for those organizations that want to take the first steps on a journey to Innovation Excellence, the apprehension can be removed by applying a structured program that moves the organization forward in carefully planned stages … like having a road-map when you start your journey.Diagnose and Design
Another truism is that if you don’t know where you are starting from, it will be difficult to get to where you want to be. So, the start of any program needs to understand the current context and situation before moving on to define how you want to get to your destination.Key activities in this phase are (1) alignment of the senior team (2) understanding of key barriers and enablers to innovation (3) understanding the innovation ambition i.e. what the organization wants to achieve through innovation and (4) development of the aforementioned high level plan to take the organization forward through a series of carefully planned phases.The forward plan details implementation activities across a number of areas and although they differ for all organizations – each design should be a bespoke program – the typical focus areas that we find are:


  • Clarify and develop the Innovation Ambition and Direction
  • Demonstrate success through real business innovation challenges
  • Work with the senior Leadership Team to ensure alignment of purpose, train in key innovation approaches, as well as establish the governance model
  • Define and build the Innovation System i.e. process, metrics, toolkit, link to other management processes etc.
  • Develop an Innovation Capability Cascade so that a cadre of ‘i-Mentors’ or i-Consultants is established
  • Engage the whole organization via a series of communication activities that allow ideas and insights to flow from the bottom up.

Having developed our initial approach we then to start to ‘do things’ in the organization to test, learn and re-fine. In our experience a vital part of this is to demonstrate that innovation activities can be successful and can deliver results. So one of the main activities in the Pilot Phase is a series of ‘innovation challenges’ i.e. a structured process of Insight Development, Idea Generation, Opportunity Development and then Agile Commercialization. By running such challenges we learn what works well and what works less well and can ‘tweak’ the innovation process design to meet the organization’s needs.

At the same time we are starting to work with the senior leaders on setting the Innovation Direction, beginning the culture change by engaging the organization and addressing any critical innovation system aspects such as management processes or skills development.

Having tested and tweaked the innovation system in the Pilot phase, we are now ready to formally ‘launch’, and roll-out to a wider audience. Of course this does not mean that we are completely finished with any system design or on-going leadership development work, but it does mean we can look to significantly increase the extent to which the organization uses the innovation tools to address more challenges.

At the same time the Capability Development work continues with more employees becoming skilled in the innovation toolset and more employees being involved in innovation initiatives. At the end of this phase we are seeing significant and tangible business results coming from the completed innovation challenges.

Scale and Embed
Having launched the Innovation Program in carefully selected areas we are now ready to really show confidence in our work and scale it up significantly across the organization and where relevant across our broader Eco-system. Business results are being significantly impacted by the innovation initiatives and the ‘culture of innovation’ is starting to becoming accepted as the way we do business.

Of course, major business transformation programs cannot easily be described in a few hundred words and as always the devil is in the detail… but following the above simple steps should at least get you started and lead you to the correct destination i.e. an organization that is capable to use innovation to drive business success.



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