Every great strategic innovation begins with setting your goals and objectives. More than ever, it’s important that they are ambitious but achievable. Yet it’s not always easy given the shifting landscape for innovation.
Some of the common issues faced by many organisations, sectors and geographies today include the following:
- Sustainability Challenges – Over 25 countries have declared a climate emergency, confirming that global warming exists and that the measures taken to date to address it are not enough.
- Intergenerational Issues – Gen Y and Gen Z have different expectations and increasingly expect brands to have a genuine and clear sustainability focus and a purpose beyond profit.
- Disruptive Technologies – Challengers are eating into existing market share across all industry sectors and capturing the attention of younger customers.
- Process Optimisation – Traditional methods of product and service innovation are costly, slow and inefficient, and competition increasingly comes from new sectors and places.
- People Power – Organisations are often disconnected from their customers and employees, who want them to be a force for good in the world.
- Innovation Impact – Organisations need to optimise the commercial and social return on their sales, marketing and innovation activities, and demonstrate that impact.
Recognising these common challenges, we worked with Idea Drop and KPMG recently to run an Innovation Bootcamp workshop where we focused on how to set innovation goals based around delivering value through people, profit and purpose:
- How can we embed people at the very heart of our business?
- How can we and our community profit from expanded revenues and reduced costs?
- How can we define our purpose to grow sustainable and help to build a better future?
Here, we’ve summarised the key points from the workshop.
How to set achievable innovation goals
Step 1: Frame each goal as a question
The first step is to think about a specific innovation goal for your business in the next three to five years and to write it as a question using 20 words or less.
Step 2: Challenge your goals
The second step is to consider the following issues and to modify each goal as necessary:
- What type of innovation do you want/need? (product/process/service/experience etc.)
- Why is this goal important? (brand building/revenue generation/talent attraction and retention/social impact etc.)
- What would be the value to you and your organisation if this goal was achieved? (specific impact)
- Why has this goal not been addressed previously? (barriers, challenges etc.)
- What help do you want or need from others in order to achieve this goal? ( data, support, resources etc.)
Step 3: Review each goal
Once you’re happy with your innovation goal, the third step is to review it against three principles for setting innovation goals, as follows:
Principle 1 - Start at the end
When it comes to innovation, it’s best to start at the end. Decide where you want to get to and then work backwards to the present, step by step, to figure out the barriers and challenges that need to be addressed to achieve your goal. This is often more effective than starting from where you are and working forwards.
To do this, you can use a tool called Cover Story to help you imagine the story that somebody would want to tell about the impact of their innovation in the future in the media.
During the workshop, we used an example of a current live project where the headline was “UK cities lead the way to net zero target” and the impact in the future was that Exeter and Glasgow win the race to become the world’s first 100% carbon neutral cities almost three years ahead of national and global targets.
Principle 2 - Ask better questions
The second principle is simply to ask better questions. A tool called Challenge Call to Action, which uses a framework based on so-called “how might we” questions can be very useful here. The technique is to express your goal as a question and then to iterate it so that it fulfils the following criteria:
- Open – is the question open so that it can be answered in a number of different ways?
- Interesting – is the question interesting to you and the audiences you are keen to engage with?
- Answerable – will it be clear when the question has been answered and when it hasn’t?
- Understandable – is the question expressed in plain language rather than jargon or terminology that might be confusing?
- Memorable – is the question catchy and repeatable, so that others will want to pass it on?
- Specific – does the question include a specific target to aim for i.e. data or timelines to meet?
During the workshop, in our example about the race to become a carbon neutral city, we started with the high-level question “How might we + eliminate CO2 emissions + in Glasgow and Exeter?”
and ended with “How might we + unlock a US$1 trillion global market + by ensuring that 100% of freight deliveries are made by non-fossil fuel vehicles + within the city centre + by 2025?”
Principle 3 - Connect the dots
Lastly, almost any goal will require input from others, so we need to learn how to ask for help in the right way. Many organisations are now realising that the solution to almost every problem they face is already out there, if only they knew where and how to look.
Today, the innovation challenge is no longer just to be great inventors and to be highly creative. Rather, we need to become better detectives and careful curators of networks if we want to remain relevant and globally competitive.
In the Innovation Bootcamp, we illustrated this point through a short exercise based on the “birthday paradox”, namely that it takes just 23 people to be in a room for it to be likely that two of them share a birthday. We invited people to stand up in a line in order of their birthdays and, sure enough, two participants shared their special day. We then used this to form new groups of people who didn’t know each other to work together by combining their innovation goals.
During the workshop, the participants developed some great innovation goals and potential partnerships. Every different combination of the participants could have resulted in a useful exchange of information or could have led to a new idea or partnership. That’s why it’s always important to be alert to the possibilities and seek to connect the dots.
Honing your innovation goals
Setting innovation goals is crucial for your innovation strategy but can be challenging given the ever-changing issues that we all face. In developing your goals, starting at the end, asking better questions and connecting the dots can reap significant rewards.
We ran the Innovation Bootcamp workshop around these three principles using a number of worksheets from the Collective Intelligence Design Playbook that we helped to develop last year with UNDP and Nesta. You can download these free worksheets from www.nesta.org.uk/cidplaybook.
Good luck with setting your innovation goals. Above all, remember to keep connecting people and ideas.