Architecting Innovation Portfolio – Part 1, By Prashant Joglekar @ideabound

Organisations innovate through its people

When organization’s leadership expects people to innovate it makes them tad anxious as most of them start thinking about Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Elon Musk. They think that as an individual they may never be like them, but we often forget that all these greats were like us before they attained the greatness. The quality of being a contrarian has put them in the north star position.

Other reason probably is the risk associated with innovation/s. Clayton Christensen in his ground breaking work on disruptive innovation has revealed that risk averse nature of successful leaders also stalls company’s effort to innovate. The higher the risk longer is the process of evaluation of the selected idea and thus longer is the duration before it sees the light of the day.

The other questions organizations grapple with is whether innovation efforts should be top down or bottoms up, do everyone need to be involved or it be restricted to select business functions like marketing, product development etc, whether what they are doing at present can be called as innovation or not. The list can really go long.

Here are some thoughts of how we can make it systematic and structured. The first & the foremost thing that an organization & its leaders must do is to build an innovation portfolio. If value derived out of innovation is all about more, different & better of good things (benefits) with less & less of bad things (cost and harm) then everyone needs to be invigorated to contribute towards this organisational effort.

Building Innovation Portfolio 
The benefit of building innovation portfolio and sharing it across organisational hierarchies make people acquire a sense of organisation’s priorities with regards to innovation. This also ensures their commitment to all execution activities that they need to play part in to achieve larger business goals of the organisation.

There are tools and methods we use to build this, but for now let’s take a macro view of how senior leadership of organizations can architect portfolio of innovation opportuities.

Rishikesha Krishnan (1) in his pretty neat book “8 Steps to Innovation” presents 3 key themes to identify innovation opportunities. These themes are Sense the Wave, Feel the Pain & See the Waste. Let’s understand & build around these themes to architect portfolio of innovation opportunities across product, process and business model. 

Sense the wave 
When we talk of a wave its usually the wave of technologies that are emerging, the ones that has already been put in productive use etc. Promising technologies are nothing but the solutions that are in search of the right problem to solve. 

On the other hand, sensing the market trends help us glean insights about the consumer wave, generally dictated by generation type, thinking styles, PESTLE forces and the context in which a particular set of consumer group thinks & consumes an output. 

These set of customers or business organizations (even organization has a personality broadly referred as a culture, generally influenced by its leadership) implicitly informs provider businesses about the expectation of value to be delivered by its products & services. At the cost of repetition & just to drive the above point, I would say Apple and Amazon have perfectly leveraged both these trends.

Feel the pain
Disruptive opportunities are generally discovered by understanding existing pains that consumer faces while using current product or services. A simple rule of thumb one can apply to unearth innovation opportunities is to look at 4 dimensions of consumption viz. access, skill to use, convenience and cost of acquisition, maintenance & usage. Customer journey & job mapping are some of the ways to look at it & spot hidden opportunities across these 4 dimensions. 

‘Jobs to be done’ and ‘Outcome Expectations’ are some of the tools that help us decode the opportunities through the themes that we discussed above. 

See the waste
Although product/service life cycles curves are shortening & will vary according to the nature of the business viz B2C or B2B, there is always a steady state or growth phase of product / service life cycle, it can range from months, years or decade depending upon the nature of the industry. In this phase, businesses need to stay competitive by slashing down the waste in everything across the value chain. So for a product it will be value engineering efforts, for processes it will be application of lean thinking to eliminate wastes and re-engineer the processes with an objective to achieve the maximum output at faster speed with minimum unit input. 

Here is a snapshot of how the innovation portfolio may look like, the risk & reward metrics of innovation will proportionately taper down as we travel down through these individual approaches viz ‘sense the wave’, ’feel the pain’ to ‘see the waste’ respectively.

Are you ready to build innovation portfolio for your organization? Let me know if you have any questions, will be happy to answer & help.  


1) 8 Steps To Innovation : Rishikesha T. Krishnan, Vinay Dabholkar, Collins Business 

The article was first published in Mr. Prashant Joglekar’s LinkedIn pulse page. It has been re-published here with the authors’ permission

[content title=”About Prashant Joglekar”]

Prashant Joglekar

An engineering postgraduate from IIT Mumbai. His career spans over 21 + years and core skills include Systematic Innovation- TRIZ Training / Facilitation, Business Transformation, Total Quality Management, Business Process Design & Management, Lean and Six Sigma training / facilitation. Prashant’s mission is to prepare, nurture innovative minds & broker ideas by cross-pollinating them across an enterprise

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