Breakthrough thinking comes with challenging your frame of reference, re-examining your assumptions, what you call the “truth”, inspecting habits, and breaking through the “it-cannot-be-done” or “we’ve-already-tried” mindset.

Recently the CEO of a $6B company shared with us, in dismay: “I do not get it! I have a great innovation process in place and I have people dedicated full-time to innovation. Yet I do not move my company beyond incremental innovation. Worse, our last breakthrough innovation has come from outside our innovation funnel, and we were quite lucky in successfully managing it. Totally un-replicable!” This was not the first time we had heard about such an experience.

Is there a way out? There is no universal recipe but we have come to learn that breakthrough innovation does not come by accident and as its name implies, it takes applying breakthrough thinking all the way from giving the mandate for innovation down to the monetization of the actual innovation. Let’s see where breakthrough thinking applies most effectively along the whole strategy innovation process by examining three basic questions:

  • Is the playing field you grant to innovation large enough?
  • Is the whole company supporting the effort of developing a potential breakthrough innovation?
  • Is the project team equipped to overcome all obstacles that come with executing a breakthrough innovation?

Make sure that your strategy innovation initiative is an opportunity for exploring a strategic frontier that allows for breakthrough innovation to emerge

Is the area your innovation team is exploring far enough from your core business? Are they allowed to identify insights from your customers that may challenge your business model?

Your company’s corporate gravity is intangible and as long as you are not producing a breakthrough in your company’s ability to reveal and unhook from it, it will limit your access to breakthrough innovation.

Developing a breakthrough innovation in-house is rarely the isolated accomplishment of some heroic innovation team, but a whole-company effort

Once a breakthrough innovation concept has been identified, too many innovation teams fail to get the necessary internal support to develop it. They bump up against the corporate immune system, i.e., all the internal systems and procedures that protect the current business model from the potentially damaging effects of change forces.

To avoid confronting this issue, many companies have chosen to in-source innovation, create spin-offs, or fund fully autonomous secret teams. These options are costly ways out and let the inner innovative potential of your company remain untapped.

It takes a special effort on your part to help the whole company understand and rally behind the development of breakthrough innovation. Yet the immune responses that would naturally kill it are embedded in every process and you will need to help everyone reveal these antibodies and lower their effect temporarily on the nascent innovation.

Is the breakthrough innovation going to survive the changes in weather?

How is the team going to face the storms of strategy changes, budget reallocation, key sponsors quitting? All these climatic events are unavoidable, yet you and the project team will raise their chances in actually delivering the breakthrough innovation by constantly fighting your company’s corporate myopia when the urgency of today’s business supersedes the importance of future business.

The project team will encounter many breakdowns en route to realizing the breakthrough innovation. In the face of each of these breakdowns, are they going to be allowed to stick to the original commitment and find breakthrough solutions to their issues or will the project succumb to the wind of short-term priorities?

The opportunity is for you to choose the level of long-term support you are ready to give them.

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