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Building Your MIS – Minimum Innovation Strategy

Successful innovation in large companies is hard. It is easy to make things complex.
We think it is better to keep things simple. Welcome to MIS, your Minimum Innovation Strategy.

Join our experiment and put the MIS to action.

Make the complex simple; like really, really simple

You have probably seen the same thing; innovation is very, very hard. It’s complicated. Complex. Open to misunderstandings and interpretations. It does not get the resources nor commitments. There is often a lack of shared understanding and shared language. It is difficult.

We have spent a lot of time working, thinking and sketching; how can we help make it simpler? How can we help large companies develop a better way, a simpler way, a minimum way?

The answer, for now, is MIS – develop a Minimum Innovation Strategy. We aim to make the complex simple. Very simple.

Building better strategy tools – and booklets to guide you

We build tools that create impact. An important part of that mission is helping users understand how to use and some best practices around using the Strategy Tools. We are now developing a series of videos, How-To guides and aids to help you put Strategy Tools to work.

 

For MIS, we have created a pilot How-To Guide, and hope this can help you put the Minimum Innovation Strategy to work in your own organization.

 

An Invitation (or really, we need your help!)

We are still building and developing the concept of MIS. We have seen it in action. We have seen the impact. But we have not seen or heard your experiences yet. So, we have a challenge or invitation for you (depending on how you see it).

Put the MIS to the test in your organization.

Post your feedback, learning and reflection on our blog, and get a 30 minute 1:1 skype session with strategy & transformation expert and Designer of Strategy Tools, Christian Rangen. Are you up for it?

How to Start

1. PRINT
Print the MIS Canvas (that’s our word for the tool) on a suitable format paper or PVC. We recommend 120 x 90cm, or even 200 x 150cm for groups.  3 – 5 people per group is good. More than six participants and the input and engagement drops. Anyway, print it.

2. INVITE
Invite some colleagues, co-workers or even top management to an informal workshop session (heck, you can even do this during lunch breaks).

3. RUN WORKSHOP
Set up and run a rapid workshop on the MIS in action, for your own organization. We suggest giving a 5-10 minute introduction to the tool itself. More time should not be needed.

4. ACTIVATE
Activate the group(s), get them working on the tool. Get them talking & writing as much and as fast as possible. If all they do is talk, just give them more pens. Ideally, each group should be getting hands on, working on the tool, not just talking to it.

5. SNAP
Snap some high-energy photos. Feel free to post them on social media using #strategytools

6. WORK
Have the groups work 20 – 25 minutes on the tool, depending on the size and maturity. It might be a good idea to have a timer, counting down, to make sure everyone is on the same timetable.

7. REFLECT
Once done, have each group or group member (depending on size of the group) reflect on three questions:

  1. What does the MIS tell us about our current innovation strategy? (if there even is one)?
  2. What was the most interesting/revealing/enlightening/annoying/fascinating part of the process? (pick your own words)
  3. Based on the output; what should we do next?

8. FOLLOW-UP & EXECUTE
Make stuff happen. Try implementing small, incremental changes fast. Run experiments.

9. FEEDBACK
Write a very brief summary of your observations working with the MIS in your own organization.

What happened? What worked well? How did the group take the tool? What was the key success factor in your intro? What was the one thing the group stumbled on? What was the absolute highlight of the process?

Post your feedback in the discussion field of this post, either on our website or Linkedin article. Feel free to include some pictures.

10. DEBRIEF TOGETHER
Let’s set up a 30 minute 1:1 Skype call to go through your MIS workshop. Let’s debrief together and help us understand what worked well and what could be changed at your end.

We would genuinely love to talk with you and hear your experiences in putting the Minimum Innovation Strategy to work.

 

Click to schedule a call now.

Sincerely,

Chris & the team at Engage // Innovate and Strategy Tools.

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Industry Leaders Weigh in on Strategy Traps for 2018

Since we’ve published Five Strategy Traps for 2018, we’ve gotten many nods in agreement, along with comments and messages from leaders across the globe telling us that the traps were only “all too familiar” to them.

The big question is really, how do we change it? How do we transform our organizations and those of our clients into something more agile and flexible? How can we radically rethink and rework how large organizations act and respond in the face of industry shifts?

To understand the strategy traps leaders are facing, and how they’re overcoming them, we reached out to a few industry experts for their take on the issue. Those interviewed included a strategy analyst in the energy industry, a finance executive in the aviation industry, and a professor in management and future societies.

Here are some of their insights around strategy traps and how we can steer clear of them:

1. Alignment is crucial

For a new innovative strategy to see success, alignment across the entire company and the Board is perhaps one of the key drivers.

“Misalignment between Executive Management and Owners / Board often leads to insufficient commitment to the new innovative strategy from the top, while underestimating the level of strategy implementation required will lead to a lack of commitment from the employees.” says Niels J. Kindberg, EVP and CFO of Jet Time.

There also needs to be an alignment of ambition.

“A new innovative strategy will not be sustainable if the Executive Management is significantly more ambitious than the Owners / Board, as this will lead to it being rejected by the Owners / Board, or fail during implementation.

Likewise, a new innovative strategy is not sustainable if the employees do not understand and adopt the new strategy.”

Recommendation:

Kindberg suggests a thorough “due diligence” and alignment of expectations with Owners / Board be done before strategy development. Furthermore, the strategy should be communicated as an evolution rather than a revolution before strategy decision (approval / rejection) by Owners / Board. Stakeholder engagement should be established at all levels before strategy implementation.

 

2. Comfort zones kill good strategy

“The evolution of homosapiens dictate the human mind to evaluate the future and new ideas / changes based on known history and past experiences, which makes it natural for the human mind to have a skeptical approach to fast and radical changes.” says Kindberg.

“For example, if I deviate from past experiences, I am at risk of being eaten / killed by the lion. Hence, the human mind is struggling to grasp the faster and bigger changes we will be experiencing going forward, consequently ignoring the risk related to not accepting new ideas and not making radical changes. And so, the human mind is a strategy trap in itself and the question is: how can human behavior be re-programmed to embrace and adopt ever faster and bigger changes?”

Recommendation:

A strategy analyst from the energy industry recommends that “CEOs should get out of their comfort zone, force themselves to have conversations with people outside of their bubble and to examine their company and leadership from the outside-in.”

 

3. Maintain balance between experience and the unknown

“We have to grow our innovation muscles”, says Leif Edvinsson, Swedish organization theorist, professor and consultant known for his work on intellectual capital and knowledge management.
“Most evolution is too linear, and most people are afraid of moving into the unknown, however, innovation is much like surfing. You have to get on the wave and can never go straight, you have to be flexible and adapt to the rapidly changing conditions,”.

Recommendation

Edvinsson believes that building a strong innovation strategy relates strongly to maintaining a balance. A balance between the boardroom and the executives, between fear and courageous experimentation.  
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Read Five Strategy Traps for 2018.

Join the dialogue around strategy and innovation. Sign up for our newsletter here.

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Five Strategy Traps for 2018

strategy traps 2018

If December is the season “to be jolly”, then January is the month where most CEOs finally “Strategize”. We look at the top five strategy traps CEOs and management teams might stumble into during their upcoming strategy processes.

By: Christian Rangen, Co-Founder Engage // Innovate, Strategy Tools, and X2 Inc

strategy traps 2018

1. THE BOARD – THEY ASK FOR NEW IDEAS, BUT REALLY ALL THEY WANT IS STATUS QUO

 

Most Board of Directors are actively looking for growth opportunities, new growth platforms and disruptive business models. At least, that’s what they tell their CEOs. They follow industry trends of increasingly shorter life-spans, understand that standing still is not an option and witness the rise of unlikely business models across multiple industries. So, the CEO is expected to come up with the appropriate response.

He (or in a few cases, she), assembles a strategy & growth team. Together, they explore emerging industry trends, go visit a number of potential partners, find new market needs, identify emerging technology solutions, map out potential startups for investments and acquisitions and finally they do rapid-market testing of a portfolio of new business models. The early results are very positive, and it is time to take these new growth ventures, with the potential to radically expand the service offering of the firm, back to the Board.

And that’s when the trouble starts.

The Board, despite its overall support, suddenly find the CEO’s new growth strategy “too ambitious”, “too radical”, “too risky” and, frequently, “perhaps a little bit more than we were looking for….”. The words, “Why don’t we just do something we are more familiar with, something we are more comfortable with or something that doesn’t require this much investments so soon”, are heard, yet unspoken. The cold hand of “let’s cling on to our legacy core business model a little longer…”, can be felt as the CEO’s growth program is positively rejected in the Board room.

 

The Trap?

Don’t drop a bomb of radical ideas onto the Board in one board session. Think of the various board members as core partners to any new growth venture. Take them through parts of the same learning experience as any new growth team. Make sure they get a taste of the same industry shifts, the same customer demands and emerging business models as your growth team does. Don’t spring the future on the Board members in one sitting. Let them listen, learn and evolve their strategic thinking as a part of your team, not as distant members.

If not, your new growth strategy is running into the biggest strategy trap there is, a status quo-seeking Board of Directors.

 

 

 2. RESOURCE ALLOCATION – WE WANT THIS NEW STUFF, BUT THERE IS NO WAY WE ARE GOING TO PAY FOR IT, AND YOU CAN JUST FORGET ABOUT SHIFTING ASSETS TO ANYTHING NEW

 

OK, so you made it past the Board of Directors. A new, ambitious strategy for 2018 is shaping up. But you also have an existing operating model running at full steam. The existing model currently eats up some 98% of all resources, and it has its own momentum, so we should not tinker too much with it. Perhaps the new growth areas will be fine with just 2% of total resources, right?

Most likely not.

Countless times we have witnessed new, high-growth strategy programs stall and stop due to lack of internal resources (people, time, funding, management attention). From high-margin software business models, smart city programs, solar energy ventures and high-end consulting services; they all got choked to a slow death due to lack of resources.

Our dear friend, Professor Rita McGrath has long argued that resource allocation is one of the top management challenges when it comes to growing and scaling new ventures. We have witnessed firsthand, again and again, how challenging it is for a very operational management team to find, allocate and – importantly – protect resources for any new growth venture.

 

The trap?

Don’t believe the excitement of new ideas and high hopes of untold potential is sufficient to develop any new corporate venture. The pull of the past and the suck of the present core business are two forces acutely stacked against any resources flowing into new, unproven ventures. If you are developing a new growth strategy, put your best people on it, allocate a smart stepping stone resource allocation model and give it both the time, people and funding required to prove the market potential and – potentially – scale.

 

3. INNOVATION – WE WANT IT, BUT HAVE NO TIME OR INTEREST TO BUILD A COHERENT INNOVATION STRATEGY

 

John, a high-ranking Strategy Director at global offshore technology company recently told us they wanted more innovation; they wanted more innovative ideas from their staff; they wanted more creativity. When we pressed him politely on the overall ambitions and targets, his response was that he hoped it could be solved in a one-day workshop.

John, like many of the executives we meet want instant innovation. When pressed, few of them are able to explain any overarching Innovation Strategy, a larger plan in place for all these “innovations”.

It is easy to get excited by the many prospects of innovation. Corporates should partner with startups (yes, frequently they should). Corporates should run in-house accelerator programs (yes, probably they should) and of course, any corporate should have a venture fund in place (yes, possibly they should).

 

The trap?

Jumping into all these (potentially) great activities should be avoided until you have a MIS (Minimum Innovation Strategy) in place. A MIS can be mapped out on a one-page tool and easily shared and discussed with management and team members. The MIS will quickly give you a shared, visual understanding of your overall Innovation Strategy.

As you jump into exciting innovative ideas for 2018, just make sure you have an overarching, Minimum Innovation Strategy in place for it. If you don’t there is a strong chance your innovation efforts fizzle out in lots of activities and little in impact.

Click here to download the Minimum Innovation Strategy Canvas and how-to guide for free. 

4. COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE – RINSE AND REPEAT FROM PREVIOUS THREE YEARS


One of the biggest trends we have witnessed in the field of strategy in the past decade is the understanding that your biggest competitors are unlikely to come from within your existing industry. Even more, they are unlikely to even be one of your current competitors, and possibly, your biggest competitor is a company you have never heard of, in an industry you never bothered to look at.

Banks no longer fear other banks. They fear fintech startups and the big software companies, notably Google, Apple and Facebook.

Oil & gas companies no longer look to hard at other O&G companies; they look at clean energy software companies, EV manufacturers and Smart City Programs.

If you run a railway company, your competitors are less likely to be other railway and train companies, but very likely to be the rise of apps, mobility-as-a-service and ridesharing. Most of your company might still think you are a railway company, but don’t be fooled by popular paradigms, you are suddenly very much a mobility service provider yourself, going head-to-head with the likes of Uber, Lyft and GM’s coming Robotaxi.

Rita McGrath calls this the shift from industry analysis to understanding arenas. Most executives are familiar with Porter’s tools for traditional industry analysis. But a lot fewer have grasped the shift into competitive arenas, where traditional industry analysis matters a lot less, and an entirely new competitive landscape arise.

 

The trap?

If you speed through the same industry understanding and competitor analysis as you have been over the past three years, there is a strong chance you are missing the world as it is shifting under your feet.

By applying a different lens and different tools, you can identify new trends and get a better understanding of a rapidly shifting industry. We frequently recommend using the Industry Shifts Map to better understand how your industry is shifting. Assume, if you will, that the competitors you know are largely irrelevant (if only, just for a moment), assume that your profit pockets will be exposed to digital disruption from global innovation superpowers and assume that you have missed several technology trends that put you way behind the curve on new opportunities. What will this industry and competitor analysis look like?

Just make sure you do not fall in the trap of rinsing and repeating the same competitor analysis as you did three years ago.

 

5. ONE STRATEGY – IN THE FACE OF TRANSFORMATION

Most of the client projects we have taken on during the past five years have been various strategy and transformation projects. Yet, virtually all clients have had a singular, core business oriented approach to strategy. They have, for lack of a better word, just One Strategy – when duality and portfolios are required. This One Strategy has sucked in all energy and over time, killed off most new ventures that did not naturally fit into the One Strategy.

Over the past few years several management authors have published excellent work on successfully leading large-scale transformations. Our friends at Innosight in their recent best-seller, Dual Transformation as well as their excellent online ranking T10. The team at Strategyzer, led by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur with their recent Business Portfolio Map, and Columbia Professor Rita McGrath with her The End of Competitive Advantage. Two of the big takeaways from this work is the need for constant reinvention (vs. Big Bang change) and building a portfolio of multiple business models.

 

How to design strategies for the future?

In our strategy work, we work with top management to design strategies – not just one strategy – for many possible futures and many parallel business models. This is complex. It is challenging both from an organizational structure, resource allocation, communications and execution – but we firmly believe top management has no choice but to embrace this approach to strategy. Strategy will be a balancing act between your “legacy core business”, “growth business” and “Explore”. Each of them will have its own strategy, KPIs and – importantly – Board level expectations.

The trap?

If you are facing a changing landscape, new technologies and new competitors armed with new business models, you are probably ripe for transformation. Do not fall in the trap of believing this can be solved by focusing on your current core business and incrementally adapting it. History and management research shows us that to survive and thrive in the face of transformation, a portfolio approach to strategy is required.

How?

Do some things you are completely safe and comfortable with. Do some moves that are safely growing your business. But, make sure you invest enough into developing a radical portfolio of moonshots and disruptive business model experiments. It might feel foreign at first, but One Strategy in the face of Transformation is no longer a viable strategy at all.

 


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ABOUT CHRISTIAN RANGEN

Founder, CEO, Engage // Innovate – strategy & innovation consulting company
Founder, Strategy Tools – the modern toolkit for strategy & innovation
Business School Faculty – BI Norwegian Business School.
Global speaker, facilitator and advisor on strategy, innovation and transformation.
He can be reached at Christian@engage-innovate.com

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Click here to download the Minimum Innovation Strategy Canvas and how-to guide for free.