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Designing Your Company’s Future with the Strategic Innovation Canvas

The Gist of It for Busy Execs:

  • The Strategic Innovation Canvas is a simple, easy-to-use tool to collaborate on, communicate and develop future-oriented strategy.
  • The Strategic Innovation Canvas is built upon the theories of Clayton Christensen (three types of innovation) and Rita McGrath (discovery-driven growth and short-term competitive advantages).
  • Companies that use the canvas like Statoil, Reckitt Benckiser, and Biotage find that it allows them to shape a very different future for their organization.

Christian Rangen — co-founder of Strategy Tools


It’s now been 5 years since the early development of the Strategic Innovation Canvas. The strategy tool has since been put to use in hundreds of companies.

We decided to take a look back at history and sat down with the original strategy tool designer Christian Rangen with a few questions.

1. What can the Strategic Innovation Canvas do for my company?


The single biggest impact the Strategic Innovation Canvas has is helping management teams and strategists to create a more future-oriented strategy.

Most companies are incredibly focused on operations and the status quo. As the pace of innovation and disruption is picking up worldwide, we believe companies need better tools for their future.

This has been the driving idea behind Strategy Tools since our early research days back in 2011. We simply must build better strategy tools and the Strategic Innovation Canvas is but one small contribution to this global challenge.

The Strategic Innovation Canvas gives you a strategic framework for developing an options-driven innovation portfolio. This builds heavily on one of our advisory board members Rita McGrath’s long-time work on discovery-driven growth and short-term competitive advantages.

Companies that use the tool like Statoil, Reckitt Benckiser, and Biotage, realize that they’re able to shape a very different future for their company simply by using a different strategy tool.  


The Strategic Innovation Canvas – a great tool to engage everyone in shaping strategy | Reckitt Benckiser workshop, Italy


2. Where did the canvas originate from?


Early during our research, we found a repetitive pattern of thinking in threes.

Again and again we saw this becoming very apparent in the field of strategy.

One example is the old McKinsey research — The Three Horizons of Growth, where companies need to think about the short term, medium term and the long term at the same time.

Equally Clayton Christensen talks about three in terms of sustaining innovation, improving innovation, and market-creating innovations. But we realized that we didn’t really have any good future-oriented tools that brought this level of “three” into practical use.

Working with a number of companies including our good friends at Statoil, we started sketching out and prototyping the first designs of the Strategic Innovation Canvas. Using highly innovative companies like Amazon as case studies, we were able to communicate and articulate what this meant in practice.

Our goal in the early days was really to build a simple, easy-to-use visual tool that came out of fairly advanced research and understanding of how to shape strategy for the future. And i hope we have achieved that fairly well.


With the Strategic Innovation Canvas, it’s easy to collaborate on shaping the strategy of your company | RB using the SIC in a workshop


3. How was the early development work?


The early development work built on a lot of design workshops with the executives from many industries.

The tool was largely built through workshops and testing with executives responsible for designing and shaping strategy across many different industries.

This has not been a primarily academic research, but really a genuine co-creation with executives around the world.

Following the very early design phase, we quickly took our work on the road and presented the early designs at various innovation conferences, including Copenhagen, Cannes, and Vienna. Again the feedback that we got from the larger innovation community helped confirm our earlier experiences and helped shape this tool further.


The Strategic Innovation Canvas works seamlessly with other visual strategy tools | Tenaga Nasional workshop, Malaysia


4. What’s been your biggest learning?


One of the effects of working with the tool is that management teams, strategy teams quickly realize that most of their energy and intellect goes into core business and operational issues.

Simply working with the tool forces you and enables you to design a different strategy for the future.

Again and again we see management teams surprise themselves when they realized how operationally focused they have become, and they simply do not have a proper strategy and innovation portfolio in place.

My biggest learning has been that simply by visualizing on this and starting work on it, companies quickly adapt and start developing better strategic thinking for themselves.


With the right facilitation, 300 people can work on shaping company strategy at the same time. | Biotage workshop, Spain.

5. How do you see companies using the tool? What is the best practice when using the Strategic Innovation Canvas?


Best practice is really when the tool becomes internalized by leaders and strategists at all levels.

This might take time, this might require some training sessions, but once leadership starts using the tool for their own progress, once the strategy team starts using the tool in internal sessions, once mid-level managers pull it out to start to discussing a more ambitious strategy, that’s when the tool really comes to effect.

The Strategic Innovation Canvas is not meant for a one-time, one-session use, but really it is a deep strategic tool that should be embedded into the organizational DNA.


[Case Study: How Statoil used the Strategic Innovation Canvas to get from idea to prototype in only weeks]

One of the teams from Biotage working on the Strategic Innovation Canvas


6. What do you see next for the Strategic Innovation Canvas?


Moving forward, we see three things.

One, we see an increasing number of companies putting it to use.

Two, we see more and more strategy and innovation teams internalizing it and using it in their everyday work.

Three, we’re looking at ways to bring this into a software solution.

We are working on our book and our writing in general, to publish more content, insights, and case studies on how our strategy tools are being put to use. This has been work in progress since 2012, and we’re still trying to find time to make more of that happen.


Get your own copy of the Strategic Innovation Canvas, free.


Grow your company beyond your core business. Book your own in-house workshop now. 


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How to Use The Innovation Pyramid [4-min Video]

The Innovation Pyramid is the strategy tool that we always use in our strategy and innovation workshops to establish the basics of innovation.

Developed through years of research by innovation experts Christian Rangen & Elisabeth Øvstebø, it is very effective in helping the teams develop a bigger picture of what innovation means in their respective companies.

The Innovation Pyramid breaks innovation down into 9 levels, from easiest to trickiest:

  1. Design & marketing innovation
  2. Product innovation
  3. Service innovation
  4. Markets, customers & channel innovation
  5. Technology innovation
  6. Process innovation
  7. Management innovation
  8. Business model innovation
  9. Industry innovation

We made a quick video to walk you through the different levels of The Innovation Pyramid:

How to Use The Innovation Pyramid

  1. Print The Innovation Pyramid (as large as you can), stick it on a whiteboard or wall before you begin your session with your team.
  2. Start from the top, and work your way down through the different levels. Or if you like, you can also work on what you enjoy first.
  3. Try to come up with ideas according to each level. Write these down on individual sticky notes.
  4. Stick small, logical steps go on the left of the pyramid, according to the levels.
  5. Stick the more radical, never-done-before ideas to the right of the pyramid, also according to the levels.
  6. Take a step back and admire the stream of ideas you’ve created.

The Innovation Pyramid will give you a rough framework to kickstart your innovation strategy. You can then move these ideas onto the Strategic Innovation Canvas to get the engine going.


We’d love to hear how you’re using The Innovation Pyramid or any of our other tools. Comment and question away in the comments section below!' class='avia-button avia-icon_select-no avia-color-theme-color avia-size-x-large avia-position-center ' >Ask us about an in-house workshop today.
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How Equinor Moved from Idea to Execution in Weeks, Not Months


How Solid is Your 2017 Innovation Strategy? 3 Qs to Answer

When we talk to our clients and workshop participants, most of them have some form of innovation initiative in place. Some have already begun pouring funding into R&D, while others have trained teams and set up new innovation processes.

However, achieving your innovation objectives is more than just putting together ideas and running with them. You first need a key element in place to see it to success — a clearly defined innovation strategy.

Unfortunately, this is something most firms overlook, according to innovation and competitive strategy expert Gary Pisano.

Fortify your innovation strategy by answering these 3 questions:

1. Are our objectives aligned?

The best strategies are usually based upon a clear objective, where vague statements like “we need to innovate now because everyone else is innovating,” or “we need to innovate so we can grow” have no place.

First, it’s important to be aligned on which type of innovation you are looking at.

There are 3 types of innovation:

  1. Efficiency-based innovation — where you focus on cutting costs, to do more with the same capital, usually a LEAN process, where you are fine-tuning and downsizing.
  2. Performance improving innovation — where you upgrade your existing products and services.
  3. Market-creating innovations — creating entire new business models, serving entirely new customers, puts your capital to use and creates the most value from a shareholder perspective.

Ask your team: what does “market-creating innovations” mean to our company?

2. Do we have the Money, Structure and Mandate in place?

There are 3,000 ideas for every one that makes it to market. The problem isn’t the idea. The problem is the system, processes, methods, tools, and resource allocation. If any of these are not in place, you are effectively killing off the ideas as they move down the pipeline.

In our research over the past 5 years, we realized that most innovation strategies that succeed are built upon the holy trinity of Money, Structure and Mandate.

Even if your ideas are brilliant, you will need the money (funding), structure (trained teams and a conducive corporate structure), and the mandate (support from the higher ups) to secure a successful transformation.

Here’s a quick score sheet from the Transformation Architecture strategy tool to help identify where you stand before you hit go. The higher your score, the better your chances at success.

Transformation Architecture


3. What are my next steps if some/none of them are in place?

Now comes the real work. It’s easy if you’ve got the entire package, from funding for new ideas and ventures, trained departments to be responsible for these new ventures, to the thumbs-up from the Board of Directors and top management.

It’s just a tad more challenging if you’re lacking an ingredient or two.

So where should you start? By asking the right questions.

Asking questions will help uncover a framework to start working with, so you can get the Money, Structure and Mandate set up for maximum transformation success.

What are the right questions to ask? Easy. They’re all in the free Transformation Architecture strategy tool that you can download by clicking the button below.

To get a more in-depth understanding of how the tool came about, you might want to take a peek at our lead facilitator Christian Rangen explaining the Transformation Architecture to workshop participants:


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