Mapping Your Innovation Strategy
In the complex sport of American football, teams rely on playbooks as thick as the Manhattan phone directory. But when it comes to creating innovative growth businesses—which is at least as complicated as professional football—most companies have not developed detailed game plans. Indeed, many managers have concluded that a fog enshrouds the world of innovation, obscuring high-potential opportunities. The authors believe that companies can penetrate that fog by developing growth strategies based on disruptive innovations, as defined by Clayton Christensen. Such innovations conform to a pattern: They offer an entirely new solution; they perform adequately along traditional dimensions and much better along other dimensions that matter more to target customers; and they are not initially appealing to powerful incumbents. Companies can develop customized checklists, or playbooks, by combining this basic pattern with analysis of major innovations in their markets. The key early on is to focus not on detailed financial estimates—which will always guide companies toward the markets most hostile to disruptive innovations—but on how well the innovation fits the pattern of success. It's also crucial to encourage flexibility: Companies must be willing to kill projects that are going nowhere, exempt innovations from standard development processes, and avoid burdening project teams with extra financing, which can keep them heading in the wrong direction. Companies can create competitive advantage by becoming champions at defining the pattern of successful innovations and executing against it. But as that pattern becomes obvious—and others emerge—building a sustainable advantage on innovation competencies will again prove elusive.