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Insights from the Yearly Strategic Innovation Conference

At the 6th annual Strategic Innovation Summit on September 19-20, twenty individuals came together to collaborate on identifying and solving the most pressing innovation issues their companies face. Here is a glimpse of what happened at this year’s summit.

Culture

What are the unwritten rules that inhibit innovation in your company? What are the ‘heuristics’ that everyone follows but that may be inhibiting innovation? Culture is dominated not by the written protocols for how you should behave but by the unwritten rules of how people actually do behave.

Some of these unwritten rules relate to the interaction between R&D and marketing; how resources are allocated and how success or failure is handled. We discussed the impact of unrevealed conflicts of interest, legacy mindsets and the issue of too much or too little transparency.

Structure & Process

In this session, participants were asked to choose a question from one of five categories to discuss and debate among the group. Some of the interesting ideas to come out of this session were:

  • A ‘Small Bet’ team that has permission to go against the grain
  • An ‘Assumptionator’ tool to gauge the degree of uncertainty
  • Development of road-maps for markets as well as technologies
  • A ‘Mario Brothers’ approach that uses symbolic gold coins to recognize learning as success

These, and many other ideas that surfaced, drove a collaborative discussion on the challenges that summit participants are facing. There is clearly a lot of innovation in the practice of innovation!

Future of the Innovation Practice

What will a day in the life of your Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) be like in 2026? A few of the many interesting insights that came out of this were:

  • The role may evolve into a Chief Insights Officer or a Chief Compassion Officer.
  • Your CINO in 10 years may be more AI than human.
  • The boundaries between company, team, and external resources will become more transient. Organizational persistence is less a virtue than it once was.
  • The nature of work may be radically different as companies become smaller and collaborative networks of individuals get together to implement everything from the small to the large.

In addition, a ‘day-in-the-life’ of Psy, a company’s possible future AI CINO, was shared with the group and it led to a mind-expanding conversation.

Metrics, Governance, Portfolio and Strategic Intent

A series of round-table discussions on these four topics let the participants self-select the topic that most interested them. Some key insights and issues included the following:

  • Metrics need to facilitate honest conversations about what you do and don’t know and about how you are going to evaluate opportunities that have a lot of uncertainty.
  • Short-term thinking in the C-Suite leads to an inability to focus on longer-term innovation. Your governance system needs to mitigate this tendency.
  • The best portfolio is not just the best set of individual opportunities. Options creation and learning efficiency can be improved through the right combination of opportunities.
  • Expression of strategic intent requires a clear business strategy, a separate innovation strategy and a clear distinction of sustaining vs strategic innovation.

Invited Talks

In addition to the above, the participants heard from two invited guests:

Julie Steele – Chairperson of the World Future Society gave a dinner address where she talked about the role that futuring can play to enhance corporate knowledge and understanding.

Gina O’Connor – Associate Dean, Lally School of Management, RPI, gave a talk about her research into corporate innovation systems and the organization, roles, and responsibilities that companies will need to be successful in the future.

Conclusion

All this plus a great evening of fine food and lively discussion rounded out the event activities. There was, naturally, much more that came out of the Summit than what could be communicated here. All the content was captured and synthesized into a comprehensive report delivered to the conference participants.

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