Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon
I have always been fascinated by new words. A few years ago Larry Potterfield, the Founder and CEO of Baldrige Award recipient MidwayUSA shared one of his “words”: voluntold. Voluntold is helping people understand the wisdom of doing something that Larry thinks is good for the company (and them). Very recently I read a blog post by Gerry Sandusky (not the former Penn State coach) in which he used the term probortunity. Probortunity is the unity between problems and opportunity, i.e. looking at ways to turn problems into opportunities.
So with the folks at Merriam-Webster probably looking askance at me, let me propose stratovation, the important unification of strategy and innovation. You might first say, “Aren’t they the same?” The answer to that question is clearly “no.” But should there be greater unity between them? I believe the answer is clearly “yes.” Let’s look at the differences between these concepts and why the need for greater commingling of the two.
Not all strategy is innovative and not all innovations are strategic. According to the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, strategy is about your organization’s approach to the future. Strategy might be built around new partnerships, revenue growth, divestitures, and new products or core competencies. Innovation involves adopting an idea, process, technology, product, or business model that is either new or new to its proposed application.
Good strategy should be about clarity in direction; it is marching orders for the organization. Good innovation is about possibility; efforts are full of uncertainty and a significant number are likely to fail. Detecting failures early is the key so that resources can be re-prioritized. As pointed out in a DigitalTonto blog, strategy is a logic chain that results in one set of choices rather than another. Innovation is about experimentation, multiple choices, and trying things out. Without strategy you lack direction. Without innovation you risk losing relevance as an organization.
So where does stratovation fit in? As product and technology cycles are becoming increasingly shorter, it is important to have ongoing innovation efforts to feed organizational strategy. Both successes and failures in innovation efforts can feed strategy and help in setting clear direction. Organizations need a focused stratovation process, a mechanism for encouraging innovation and making sure outcomes of innovation efforts are hardwired to the strategic planning and thinking of the organization. Senior leaders need to set the climate for innovation and make sure there is the hardwired linkage to strategy setting. All workforce members are possible contributors to innovation. Senior leaders need to prioritize resources so that high potential innovations have the resources needed for exploration. It takes a proactive focus on stratovation for ongoing organizational success.
So, how is your organization set for stratovation?