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Innovation Strategy | Foresight

From Innovation Intelligence To Action

Making better decisions for tomorrow relies on the ability to collect, organize, and act on innovation intelligence — the multitude of building blocks that make up an organization’s innovation process. These building blocks will differ across organizations based on strategic objectives or capabilities, but requisite are the features of collaboration, divergent thinking, and resilience. Also implicit in the process is the need to move from innovation intelligence to action.

In our recent Where to Play 2021+ event, which took place on 9 and 10 June, our team discussed the importance of innovation intelligence — namely, the various Trends and Emerging Technologies uncovered through a comprehensive process of Environmental Scanning. 

The 175+ Trends and Emerging Technologies identified through our multidimensional approach serve to help innovation teams contextualize change and better assess the driving forces shaping the future. This context provides evidence of where change is occurring and points to where the change will expand to next. It also imparts information related to urgency, relevance, and impact, answering not only the crucial question of “Where to play?”, but also “When to act?” and “What to prioritize?”

At this point, organizations must move beyond the abstract and use the intelligence they’ve garnered to inform their decision-making and the tangible steps in their innovation process.  

Discussed here are four strategies that organizations can use to move from innovation intelligence to meaningful and decisive action:

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1. Turn Data into Intelligence

Environmental Scanning is an essential first step in the innovation process, falling under Foresight and Strategy. Knowing how and why consumer behavior, expectations, and demands are changing is key to determining where opportunity spaces will present themselves for industries and individual organizations. 

With abundant data available to most organizations, the challenge lies in uncovering the relevant insights and patterns that the data holds. This begins by scanning for weak signals. Weak signals are fragments of information that indicate shifts. These shifts are mostly happening on the periphery of industry environments and, because of their fringe occurrence, can often be dismissed as anomalies. And while weak signals can indeed sometimes turn out to be anomalies, they can also be the first signs of industry disruption. 

Therefore, it is vital to monitor weak signals—visualizing how they evolve and where they form connections—in order to understand the broader shifts that they represent. This is the foundation of Trend and Emerging Technology scouting that turns unstructured data into actionable intelligence that can help organizations adequately prepare for possible futures.

2. Combine Human and Machine

Organizations today must operate in an increasingly complex and noisy business environment. Making sense of this environment and knowing where to direct attention and resources is imperative for organizations looking to gain strategic advantage. 

Supplementing this process with artificial intelligence allows organizations to manage the complexity arising from millions of signals and interconnections. For example, AI can be programmed to scan vast amounts of external data sources (e.g., scientific articles, patents, startups, news, blogs, curated reports, etc.) to reveal patterns and indicate where change is at play.

By balancing this machine intelligence with human knowledge and experience, innovation teams can derive meaning from these patterns, ensuring business relevance and strategic fit. This helps to enrich initial findings and equips teams to develop a future course of action anchored in empirical research and critical analysis.

3. Nurture a Culture of Collaboration  

Without question, collaboration enhances an organization’s ability to innovate. But it is not implicit in the process; organizations must continuously nurture a culture of collaboration.

This requires mechanisms for transparency and channels for sharing information. By having an accessible and single point of truth when it comes to innovation tools and intelligence, organizations can integrate different viewpoints and brain trusts, prompt joint ownership and buy-in, and manage resources more efficiently. And in doing so, they are better positioned to act on their innovation goals.

Opportunities can be easily missed and redundancies can arise when critical information is scattered across systems and departments. So whatever tools your organization uses to manage intelligence or innovation, it’s vital that they allow for collaboration.

Aggregating all innovation intelligence into a digital and centralized solution means that stakeholders across an organization can participate in each step of the journey—from evaluating different elements and pointing out gaps to allocating resources and identifying areas or projects for prioritization.

4. Build Innovation Capabilities 

An organization’s innovation capabilities, which include each point above in addition to much more, form the connective tissue required to go from intelligence to action.

The ITONICS Control Objectives for Innovation Management (COFIM) model exists to help you understand and build these capabilities. By defining the innovation capabilities that need to be present in corporate innovation systems, COFIM provides clear guidance on managing innovation across strategic and operative objectives, with key performance indicators to support effective and controlled innovation.

The COFIM model systemizes innovation management to maximize impact. Recognizing that change is not tied to a specific direction and will continue to shift directions, the model assists in building capacity that enables agile corporate innovation management that takes foresight to strategy to execution.

To get started, take the ITONICS Innovation Maturity Assessment. This free, 10-minute evaluation will provide you with a benchmark report of your current capabilities and dedicated recommendations for optimizing your innovation management.

Potential Pitfalls

  • Important opportunities can be easily missed if Environmental Scanning is too narrow: Approaching signals scanning from an industry perspective alone could lead to a narrow view. This approach often yields reactive insights. To build a proactive and eventually predictive organization, a wide lens is necessary. This enables short-, medium-, and long-term opportunities to be recognized and ensures a strategy that is innovation-centric as opposed to project-focussed.

  • Only relying on either human or machine: ITONICS firmly believes that future success must combine machine and human intelligence. An organization's size, innovation maturity level, and capabilities will determine the ratio between human and machine effort. Identifying which tasks can be easily handled by machine intelligence may free up human resources to contribute expertise and insight elsewhere. 

  • Be ready to venture into uncharted territories: Environmental Scanning, data collection, and sense-making should lead decision-makers to consider alternative futures and solutions that challenge the status quo. Preparing for increasingly uncertain futures requires looking beyond past models, methods, and mindsets.

  • Teams and management do not have visibility and lack understanding and commitment to change: Stakeholders outside of innovation decision-makers must be armed with the data, knowledge, and tools to align with innovation ideation and execution. 

ITONICS has developed a series of Foresighty & Strategy Masterclasses that deep dive into these strategies and more, helping you to strengthen your innovation capabilities. You can now watch the five interactive sessions led by our ITONICS innovation experts, free on-demand.

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