A Roadmap for Building Corporate Innovation Capabilities

What should a roadmap that helps you develop corporate innovation capabilities look like? How do you bring new thoughts and approaches together with current and past initiatives (both successes and failures) and turn this into a single framework? How do you keep pushing and developing your organization to become more flexible and agile without losing out on the current overall efforts and expected results?

These are some of the questions, I have in mind while working on a roadmap and framework for building corporate innovation capabilities at a large, international organization.

The main purpose of the roadmap is to develop an approach that wins the support of executives, managers and employees within the company having the complexity of several business units and important corporate functions in mind. The roadmap should also make it easier for the core team to actually make things happen.

My roadmap for building corporate innovation capabilities is based on seven key steps and elements:

  1. We build on the corporate leadership principles already in place for the organization.
  2. This helps us develop the key objectives for our efforts.
  3. We identify the key areas that are relevant for our key objectives.
  4. We create a pool of resources to get the jobs done.
  5. We hold executives and key managers personally committed and responsible.
  6. Action happens – capabilities develop.
  7. Our work is part of a narrative that puts the spirit back into the organization.

This is still work in progress so your input is highly appreciated. I am in particular interested in hearing what you like and what I have missed. Here we go with my take and discussion starter.

1) We build on the corporate leadership principles already in place for the organization.

Every organization have a set a guiding principles in place and they must be incorporated in an innovation roadmap because you can no longer separate general leadership and innovation efforts. Furthermore, we are also starting to see more and more examples on how (open) innovation efforts transform companies and organizations to become more open, more transparent and faster.

When I work with executives on bringing corporate leadership principles together with an innovation roadmap, we often align the key elements around customers, partners and people / talent. On the downside, I often miss principles that can are based on sentences such as “we are open to the outside” and “we embrace and thrive with changes and we are open for experimentation”.

Once you know the leadership principles to work with in your situation, you should write up a short description that explains the context of innovation for each of the chosen key principles.

2) This helps us develop the key objectives for our efforts.

Having the leadership principles in mind, the organization (the executives and the core team) must ask itself why it wants to pursue innovation like this? We need to identify the objectives for our efforts. Some examples could be:

Set milestones having the short, mid and long term perspectives in mind.

  • Bring better products and services to market faster.
  • Become more competitive (yes, but in which ways and how?)
  • Transform the company to meet the challenges of a faster and changing future
  • Develop a modern HR function with a strategic role in the company
  • Be recognized as a strong and desirable company to work for and partner with

You should prioritize the key objectives while having in mind that these are moving targets. Set milestones having the short, mid and long term perspectives in mind.

3) We identify the key areas that are relevant for our objectives.

There are so many key areas for the core team to work on and we need to get a better overview. As a starter, you can divide this into three categories 1) the organization itself, 2) products/services/processes and 3) infrastructure and support for innovation. Have in mind that there will be lots of overlap in this phase and clarification is needed.

Some examples of key areas:

The organization itself

  • The leadership team, middle managers, employees, the HR function, organizational structures, how to get access to people/resources, how to identify and develop people and resources, how to reward and recognize people, recruitment, corporate culture, the spirit of the organization, common language and understanding in the context of innovation, communication and the perception of the company, how to work with the outside

Infrastructure and support for innovation

  • Idea and innovation management systems, how they work with other systems, metrics and measurements (development of an overall system that also taps into each key area)

Products/services/processes

  • R&D assets and capabilities, product development, production technologies, manufacturing, supply chain, procurement, other commercial activities, the digital impact

We should prioritize the key areas and prepare for an assessment for all or some of the areas. Areas related to the organization can be assessed with a Current versus Future perspective while areas related to products, services and processes can be assessed based on current KPI’s (although this needs to be fine-tuned or even changed). We can also assess areas related to the outside (customers and partners) with an Ecosystem Happiness index.The next step is to create a list of actions for each key area. Staying focused is a challenge. There are so many things to work on so we need to develop a “scoring system” or process that helps us prioritize our efforts. This can be based on considerations such as best potential versus least resistance, impact on the organizational development and the effect on developing better products, services and processes faster.

Some actions can be driven by the core team, but it is important that individuals and teams around the organization can chose – and even add – their own actions. We need everyone to take ownership in the efforts.

4) We create a pool of resources to get the jobs done.

It is a common mistake for organizations to create a pool of projects while not creating a pool of people who can actually make them happen. We need different kinds of people for different projects and even in their different phases of development.

It is a common mistake for organizations to create a pool of projects while not creating a pool of people who can actually make them happen.

So we should identify, train and develop the people needed in the short, mid and long term perspective.

Two notes on this:

People – and resources in general – can be internal as well as external. We need to further improve the organizational capabilities for working with external contributors in many different ways.

HR needs to be involved and we should help them develop into into a modern HR function that also contributes on a strategic level in the context of innovation.

5) We hold executives and key managers personally committed and responsible.

We perform a stakeholder analysis on all executives, the key managers and some key external partners in order to understand who are backers, blockers or neutral towards innovation and corporate transformation. More importantly, we try to understand the individual reasons for their stance based on the notion that almost everyone in an organization have a “What’s in it for me?” mindset.

We help all executives and key managers develop their own BHAG (a big hairy audacious goal) and their 3-year legacy (what they will be remembered for 3 years from now).

We develop a system that can hold the executives and key managers personally committed and responsible for their contribution to our innovation efforts. This includes rewards as well as consequences for inactivity.

6) Action happens – capabilities develop.

As we set forth to make things happen, we pay specific attention to the drivers and enablers for the initiatives and efforts that work the best. This brings along questions such as: How can we track this? How can we share knowledge from successes as well as failures from around the organization?

Experimentation is needed and not just on products, but also on processes. How can we make sure the organization becomes better at this and at handling the inevitable failures that comes with experimentation? How can we facilitate that people in the organization help each other?

The actions can be initiated and pushed by the core team as well as autonomously by the organization. We must find the right balance here.

Metrics and measurements focus on input, process, outcome and behaviors. We track results as well as progress.

7) Our work is part of a narrative that puts the spirit back into the organization.

We need to create or further ignite a strong spirit in the organization. We need to make the organization feel capable, skilled and “hungry” when it comes to the innovation efforts that can help transform the entire organization. One of the big challenges here is to create a compelling answer to the “Why?” question that lingers around organizations that are already successful in many ways.

A key is to build on the notion that proof builds on perception. There are often several pockets within any organization that do a good job. We don’t have to reinvent ourselves; we just have to become even better at things that are already happening within the organization. When we work with the “proof builds on perception” notion, we work with internal as well as external communication tools.

By the way, we need to view communication in a broad sense. Yes, this is about traditional PR, branding and internal communication, but this is also about networking, stakeholder management and social media.

We need to develop a communication strategy early in the process for our activities and even more importantly, we need to develop a narrative that can inspire not only the employees of your organization, but also the outside world who reads about our work. Some examples are the Man on the Moon competition at Danfoss, the FastWorks concept at GE and the Dubai 2021 Plan, which does a great job of setting a vision without even using the work or term innovation.

Closing remarks

People listen, learn and adapt in different ways so when I work with organizations on work like this, I strongly suggest they can create not only a written, but also a visual roadmap that helps explain what will happen, why this happens and how it impacts the individual person.

Last, but not least, you can learn from and be inspired by the outside, but when you are in charge of developing corporate innovation capabilities, the key is to always put the context of your own organization first. You can’t just copy the great things done by other companies.

Let me know what you think of this roadmap and framework approach. I am in particular open for feedback on what you like and what you think is missing. Thanks.

By Stefan Lindegaard

About the author


Stefan Lindegaard is a Copenhagen-based author, speaker and strategic advisor. His focus on corporate transformation and innovation management based on leadership, the work force and organizational structures has propelled him into being a trusted source of inspiration to many large corporations, government organizations and smaller companies. He believes business today requires an open and global perspective and he has given talks and worked with companies in Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
In his role as a strategic advisor and coach, Stefan Lindegaard provides external perspectives and practical advice for executives and corporate transformation and innovation teams. He is a widely respected writer and he has written several books including The Open Innovation Revolution published globally. You can follow his work on LinkedIn Pulse.

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