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There's a very important link between innovation and strategy, but to be honest with you, I see companies and teams that struggle with this. They're neither not aware of it or they're just not quite sure how to think about it, and I'll be quite honest with you. I kind of stumbled on this notion one day when I was at my previous company, Johnson & Johnson. I was working with a team that was developing some new ideas around a very mature product, a medical device product.
This device hadn't been innovated in - it hadn't changed really in like 25 years, but we applied systematic methods to it and we, honestly, we came up with a lot of really great ideas, a lot of them. In fact, we came up with so many ideas, the team leader, a guy named Nick, he came up to me and says "Drew, what are we going to do now? "How are we going to make sense of all these ideas? "How are we going to filter them down?" And as it turns out, we were using a marketing strategy model.
It's a model called The Big Picture. It was developed by a colleague and a dear friend of mine, Christie Nordhielm, at the University of Michigan. It's a 2x2 matrix with strategy options in them. It's probably the easiest way to think about it. And what I said to Nick, I said, Look, I don't know if this will work, but let's try it. What if we took every idea and we found a home of where it belongs on this 2x2 strategy matrix. In other words, let's take this idea and say, hmm, does it belong in this quadrant or this quadrant.
Right? And so, for the say 120 ideas we had, we mapped them up on the wall on this strategy grid and you should've seen the looks on people's faces. They're looking at it like this, and they're thinking, oh my God, look at the cluster of really great ideas down here in what we call quadrant three of the strategy grid. And that's when the light bulb went off in my head. I thought, my God, we have just linked innovation and strategy. Let me finish the story.
What happened then is I could see the team thinking, you know, we thought our strategy was up here in what what's called quadrant two, but as you look at the cluster of great ideas down here in quadrant three, they were making up their mind and saying, you know, we should make that our strategy. And the revelation for me was that the innovation was driving the choice of strategy. Now, it can work the other way too. You can say, hey, we are definitely in quadrant two for many reasons, we have no control over that.
Ok great, now when you run your innovation workshops, what you do during the ideation session is you say, guys, our strategy is quadrant two. We can't change that, so whenever you come up with an idea, make sure it has a quadrant two effect in it. In other words, embed the intent of your strategy. That's strategy informs innovation. So there's two directions to link innovation and strategy. Strategy informs innovation. Innovation informs strategy.
Which one is right? They're both right, but pick one. At least do one of them. Don't let your innovation be divorced of your strategy. Otherwise it's going to end up with a lot of ideas that are really not mainstream. The senior leadership is going to look at them and say you know, you're kind of out of bounds here. Bring it back home, get right on top of the strategy, and you're going to come up with ideas that the senior leadership's going to be thrilled about.
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