Gary P. Pisano Harvard Business Review June 2015 Issue
Why is it so hard to build and maintain the capacity to innovate? The reason is not simply a failure to execute but a failure to articulate an innovation strategy that aligns innovation efforts with the overall business strategy.
Without such a strategy, companies will have a hard time weighing the trade-offs of various practices—such as crowd sourcing and customer co-creation—and so may end up with a grab bag of approaches. They will have trouble designing a coherent innovation system that fits their competitive needs over time and may be tempted to ape someone else’s system. And they will find it difficult to align different parts of the organization with shared priorities.
As Corning, a leader in glass and materials science, has found, an innovation strategy must address how innovation will create value for potential customers, how the company will capture a share of that value, and what types of innovation to pursue. Critics tend to discount “routine” innovation that leverages a company’s existing technical capabilities and business model and extol “disruptive” innovation, but that is a simplistic view. A company’s unique competitive circumstances should dictate the innovation portfolio it pursues.
Because innovation cuts across functions, only senior leaders can set an innovation strategy. In doing so, they must recognize that the strategy, like the process of innovation itself, requires continual experimentation and adaptation.