If you are in charge of developing innovation strategy, you have to answer the question, “What are our next big innovation opportunities?”

Being responsible for developing innovation strategy also means reaching out beyond your innovation team to employees, customers, and other stakeholders to gather valuable input.

When your outreach consists of asking stakeholders what your next big innovation opportunities are, however, you are missing the mark.

Delegating the Wrong Question to the Right People

Quesiton-Mark-Puzzle Photo by: Leung Cho Pan

When answering the question about big innovation opportunities, your answer will likely come after significant exploration, ideation, concept development, prioritization, and prototyping. With that work out of the way, you are ready to speculate about the future opportunities.

Thinking you can delegate to others your job of developing innovation strategy and answering the important question you must address will not work. You cannot expect others to answer in one-step the question you might work months to address.

Yet, companies try to do just that.

Innovation Strategy that Has a Chance to Work

Talking with someone inside a big company recently, what they have tried to ask various stakeholders what they think the next innovation should be. First, it was through an employee “idea box.” When that did not work, it was through talking to customers, asking them what the company should innovate. That was not successful either.

No surprise in either case.

When taking the right step to reach out to employees and customers, do not expect them to develop your strategy. Instead, solicit input and help them articulate insights they have to help shape the innovation strategy.

  • Employees know about challenges and lost opportunities with customers. They know about problems with processes that restrict delivering value.
  • Customers know why they don’t use your product more. They know the problems or challenges they have with your product and what they wish you did more of or better.

Talk to your stakeholders about topics they can address. Give them information and the strategic thinking structures they can use to better articulate their thoughts.

Then, get back to the work you should be doing to turn that information, along with the other work you are doing, into answers about what your next big innovation opportunities are.

If you'd like to learn very productive ways to explore and identify your innovation opportunities, we invite you to download our FREE "Outside-In Innovation" edition of the Strategic Thinking Facebook. It's waiting for you below, and will jump start answering the innovation questions you need to answer!
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