Innovation: Tactical or Strategic Approach

Innovation like most things in business can be dealt with tactically or strategically.

A tactical approach to innovation would be developing and executing an idea that delivers value to your customers (while also adding economic value to the organization). It is not unusual to have this situation. Very often, an organization has an individual or a team come up with a brilliant idea, often seeded by a customer insight or a technological insight. Innovation results when the idea is developed and commercialized.

While this approach may yield result, this is not replicable without a more strategic approach.

1. How does the organization create a process of continuously generating new ideas based on customer insights or technology insights?

2. How does the organization continuously evaluate, build/refine and select ideas for development?

3. How does the organization engage not just it’s employees, but also it’s customers, suppliers and the society in building a portfolio of ideas and projects for innovation?

4. How does the organization create an operations model that will enable successful innovation?

5. How does an organization build capabilities and culture that will make innovation thrive?

6. How does an organization create a vision and strategy for innovation and build an organizational alignment around it?

There is no question that addressing all these elements will result in increased innovation capabilities. In fact, the most innovative organizations do all of these. It takes tremendous leadership commitment and organizational effort to create such a management system.

However, we also find that organizations adopting an approach in between these extremes. These may include amongst other things

1. Implement an ideation management system

2. Run hackathons or rapid ideation events

3. Focus on providing direction by developing a strategy

4. Initiate projects that have a connection with strategic intent

5. Appoint innovation manager, champions and task force

6. Initiate digital/automation programs

Unfortunately, while these individual efforts may provide some benefits, they are more of an innovation theatre rather than an effort at building organization innovation capabilities. Organizations can sustainably innovate (as the best do) only through aligning ambition with capabilities. This requires an effort that is lead by the top but involving the entire organization. It requires the leadership to articulate the future vision, innovation goals and a strategy to achieve the goals. It needs to balance the needs of the present (tactical) to both growth and future needs. It needs to encompass all the different ways the organization can innovate. But most importantly, it needs the right leadership style and commitment, the right organization environment (aka culture), the processes and tools for achieving the ambition. Organizations also need to ensure that they have the right structures and “runways” to ensure that the innovations take-off.

How are you designing your innovation efforts?

Do reach out to me to discuss further

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 25 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email:

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