One issue has been on my mind for quite some time. Let me share with you a key learning from my innovation work in and with diverse companies over the years. It can be termed pretty catchy as: Window of Corporate Opportunity.
In brief, this notion can be delineated as follows: Sustainable, effective and impactful corporate innovation is all about right timing and organizational readiness. What does this mean?
- If the perceived threat or presure to change is too low, corporate inertia prevails, little to no sense of urgency is noticeable and most of the innovation activities sadly end up as ‘Innovation Theater‘.
- If the perceived threat or pressure to change is too high, companies usually switch to a crisis mode, frequently dominated by panic, actionism and quick fixes to save the company. Quite often, this is the point in time when corporate innovation activities face severe cuts and management attention is heavily directed towards protective actions.
- For most companies there seems to be a timing ‘sweet spot‘ in between. This ‘Window of Corporate Innovation Opportunity‘ (WoCIO) provides appropriate conditions and organizational willingness to commit to innovation activities, in particular non-incremental ones. Sense of urgency and need for change prove adequately high for corporate innovation and transformation to be taken seriously and targeted at actual impact.
To flesh out this idea a bit more, I have prepared the following sketch – please forgive me for being rather bad at drawing! To simplify matters and for the sake of this argument, the sketch does not account for attenuating effects of innovations under-way on the (disruptive) threat or pressure to adapt.
In most cases, catching the WoCIO is a requisite for getting the senior leadership attention and buy-in, sufficient resources as well as organizational commitment to build up and repeatedly run impact-oriented corporate innovation activities. However, there may be a catch to this: Given the typical time to impact of disruptive or transformative corporate endeavors, in combination with the exponential pace of (disruptive) change, this time window on hand may be too small to spawn meaningful innovation and transformation. Therefore, companies would be better off getting consistently committed way earlier.
By engaging senior leadership in modeling/simulating a company’s future and resulting strategic options, the stage may be set to boost awareness and to enter the WoCIO at an earlier point. In return, the company gains more time to devise and implement a thought-through response to the impending threat – and therefore a higher likelihood to not slide into the third crisis stage.
In a nutshell: Companies need to start innovating and transforming before they are ‘on fire’!