Notes on Innovation Strategy Deep Dive

Summary of a talk given June 8, 2016 by Larry Schmitt at the Innovation Master Class in St. Paul, MN.

During a 90 minute ‘deep dive’, Larry Schmitt discussed innovation strategy with a roomful of over 60 innovation specialists and leaders of innovation efforts within their organizations. This talk (a full video of the talk can be seen here) was part of the Innovation Master Class, put on by The Conference Board, held at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, MN from June 7 – 9, 2016.

Some of the highlights of the talk were:

  • We are living in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world and the pace of change is accelerating
  • Other’s innovations are driving this change and creating future uncertainty for your company. The way your company deals with this future uncertainty is by creating innovations that will influence the world in ways that are beneficial to you
  • Uncertainty is different than risk.

Risk – We don’t know what is going to happen next, but we do know what the distribution looks like.
Uncertainty – We don’t know what is going to happen next, and we do not know what the possible distribution looks like.

Companies have many ways of dealing with risk, but uncertainty makes companies very uncomfortable

  • An Innovation strategy is the way your company can manage future uncertainty. The Innovation Strategy Canvas (shown below) is a useful tool for organizing the development of an innovation strategy and making sure all of the components of a complete strategy are thought of in the right way.

IS Canvas

  • Each of these components was gone over and specifics were discussed using case stories and examples to illustrate each of the components and its details.

Prior to the conference, an Innovation Strategy Assessment survey was sent out to the conference attendees. There were 58 responses from a broad cross-section of attendees and the results were presented during the deep dive. Some of the key takeaways are:

  • Many feel they know the forces that affect them but do not have a clear picture of the future that awaits them.
  • Futuring is a common component for many companies but they don’t feel that they are very good at it.
  • The domains a company explores are pretty well defined.
  • Updates to domains are not well managed and don’t happen very often.
  • The company’s leadership generally understands the importance of innovation and supports it.
  • Despite the recognition of its importance, the company’s culture is often not up to the task of creating a truly innovative company.
  • Although most companies have a well-defined innovation system, they really do not know what it will look like in the future.
  • There are real barriers to most companies creating an effective innovation structure and funding it properly.
  • Although a company may have a portfolio management system, they often have trouble using it to effectively allocate resources.
  • Companies know what their core is but are not aligned on how they should expand from their core into new areas.
  • Companies undertake many change initiatives but do not have a clear understanding of who they want to be in the future.
  • Companies expect internal change initiatives to make them better at innovation but often fall short in the implementation.
  • Even when companies do get information on their innovation performance, it’s difficult for it to have much impact.
  • The information companies get about what is going on in the world is not sufficient to enable good decisions about what to do.

The result of this assessment can be seen in the chart below. This chart shows the average result of all 58 respondents on each of the seven dimensions measured. It also shows the best-in-class result (i.e. the value of the one respondent who rated their company highest in that particular dimension).


As can be seen, the average response in every dimension is slightly negative. This means that, on average, companies felt that they do not do a very good job creating a top-notch innovation strategy.

Each respondent to the survey received an evaluation of their own company as shown in the example below.


If you would like to take the survey yourself and receive an assessment of your company’s innovation strategy, please click the button below.

Take the Innovation Strategy Assessment