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Three Principles for Successful Innovation

Over the past several years, Clarkston has studied hundreds of organizations across a variety of industries in the constant and evolving search to distill the essence of what makes organizations successful. Our pursuit is always clear: scan and extrapolate these insights to tailor the right solution to solve our clients’ most critical challenges. From a flurry of industry cross-sections, entrepreneurial, and digital advances around the world, we have seen and applied several key principles to help leaders across the life sciences, retail, and/or CPG industries guide their next wave of innovation successes. Below we outline three principles for successful innovation: 

Successful Innovation Best Practices

1. Speed Trumps Perfection

It took several decades for electricity to be adopted by <25% of the US population; 30+ years for telephone… but less than a decade for the internet to get to almost 50% of the US population. The principle is simple: if you’re not moving fast, you’re falling behind. Successful organizations leverage hybrid agile processes, but more importantly, an agile organizational mindset and operating models to make decisions and get to market faster. This means the ability to understand what and how MVPs (minimum viable products) can help organizations quickly assess an idea in the real world, especially in environments prone for digital disruption.   

Putting the principle to practice: For a client in the food and beverage space, Clarkston evaluated the viability of a new product introduction via an agile eCommerce launch. In less than three months, we strategized, conceptualized, and launched the idea. During this span, we successfully targeted and acquired over 100 B2B clients in a highly technical and specialized niche market. By going fast, we proved the idea, the market, and its customers – and as importantly, disproved areas where not to focus to be successful. Today, the original pilot is off and running as a standalone successful business.

2. Create Competitive Advantage Across the Entire Value Chain

An athlete getting ready to compete in the Olympics would not train one muscle in isolation. Organizations are no different – why would a company focus solely on developing a strategy, but not on the corresponding operational capabilities required for success? Organizations will typically focus on one operational muscle (following our Olympian example), which inevitably sets the stage for natural imbalances. This tends to occur because creating the necessary cross-functional change is often deemed too cumbersome, complex, or politically difficult. In other words, it’s easier for leaders to change what they can control and areas they can directly influence. By focusing on MVP’ing solutions (see “speed trumps perfection” principle above), innovation can occur across the entire value chain to avoid siloed results.  

Putting the principle to practice:  For an emerging biotech in the rare disease space, Clarkston developed prototypes for a new clinical enrollment digital tool to support HCPs (healthcare providers) and PIs (primary investigators) to expedite and facilitate patient enrollment into several clinical trials. The digital prototype began with a strategic, “art of the possible” lens, and it quickly gained the attention of Clinical Operations, R&D, Regulatory & Compliance, and Field teams, and major CROs and IRT providers. Together, we brought this idea to market and ensured we flexed all the required organizational muscles – not just any one in isolation. As a result, the web-based digital tool and underlying workflows are helping this biotech expedite and enroll patients into several clinical trials – all of which was accomplished by creating value across all stakeholders in the value chain.  

3. Business and Technology Must Go Together

Technology continues to drive unprecedented changes at accelerating rates and the pace at which technology is changing can often overwhelm organizations. To be “future proof,” leading organizations must innovate their operating model and technology simultaneously. This means a holistic strategy is needed to drive transparency and understanding not only of the technological requirements but even more importantly, the human capital, capabilities, and process redesigns needed to drive substantial step-change improvements. Companies seeking bold business and technological transformations must be aware of traditional strategy and/or execution traps to further their odds for success.   

Putting the principle to practice: For a medical device manufacturer with both a B2B and B2C business, Clarkston helped reimagine the company’s customer and patient journeys. We evaluated the company’s MarTech (marketing technology) stack and identified major leaks in the marketing funnel. With these insights on hand, we crafted a strategy and business case for what a fully digitized journey could look like. Under this new strategic umbrella, we implemented improvements across advanced algorithms, data structure, and data flows that will drive important conversion improvements for the organization. By focusing on both the operating model and the underlying technology, this organization is making significant strides in driving major improvements across their consumer-patient engagement funnels.  

Progressing Forward with Successful Innovation

Remember: Innovation loves constraints, and comfort is the enemy of progress. By focusing on the uncomfortable – that is, executing ideas and/or concepts that might not be part of a company’s operating vernacular – leaders can continue to move their organizations forward. 

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Tags: Strategic Innovation, Strategic Innovation Capabilities, Strategy & Innovation