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Are you clear on your sustainable innovation strategy?

Agreeing on a clear definition of innovation strategy is crucial

Many experts hammer home the point that there is nothing more critical to innovation than agreeing on the content of the innovation strategy. We argue that the first step is to collectively agree on a single definition of what an innovation strategy is. Sharing a single understanding of innovation strategy limits unfortunate misunderstandings that lead to rowing in different directions and directions. This is what also makes it possible to clarify roles and responsibilities in order to better contribute to the innovation dynamic. On a ship, it is better to designate a captain, a helmsman and mechanics. It is the same with the construction and management of the semaphore to avoid fatal blind spots.

Sihem Ben Mahmoud-Jouini, Associate Professor at HEC, describes innovation strategy as the orchestration of the co-evolution of vision, offers and skills. Obviously, more than ever, this orchestration aims to produce sustainable innovation.

The innovation strategy does not only consist in defining the plan for renewing products or their positioning, it also implies defining and orienting the development of key competencies that feed back into a responsible vision.

Let’s take the case of Danone and its “Local First” strategic vision, whose ambition is to “move from a global organization by category to a local organization by zone”. In terms of sustainable innovation, if this world leader had not thought of renewing its expertise in logistics, design, purchasing, regulation and management, it would not be able to work more precisely and creaon short circuits, circularity and, more generally, the social and solidarity economy, which is at the heart of the relocation of exchanges.

In terms of sustainable innovation strategy, without renewing or even revising its skills, how could the leader in yogurt, for example, invest in the highly profitable sector of impact finance, which is related to the Local First issue? Indeed, without an innovative marketer and specialist in short circuit issues, how would the concept of facilitating the creation of a local currency to generate resilience in a territory and establish a new relationship of trust between consumers of Danone products and producers come about?

Modeling a sustainable innovation strategy through Open Innovation

If articulating the space of the vision with the space of the offers and the space of the skills becomes obvious, a question arises: where to start?

The design of a sustainable innovation strategy begins with an awareness, from which an analysis follows. Managers must understand that the company must be able to respond to the tensions in its ecosystem.

Focusing on the evolution of the various stakeholders, the analysis clarifies the tensions, the causes of which can be economic, technological, social or political ruptures… In the case of Danone’s “Local First” strategic vision, the challenge would be, among other things, to measure the influence of the European Commission’s policy on ways of selling and consuming locally, through its support for initiatives such as SKIN, Short Supply Chain Knowledge and Innovation Network[1]. This analysis of the tensions and disruptions facing the ecosystem is then shared with its stakeholders.

The analysis of the ecosystem is followed by a deep dive into the firm that is undertaking the process. It is a statement of its competencies and innovation capabilities. It is up to the analysts to identify unmet expectations of business units, due to lack of resources or skills. They can also identify opportunities neglected by the same business units…

Secondly, innovation strategists bring together internal and external stakeholders to develop a common understanding of the current situation. Finally, through collective intelligence, representatives of the companies that make up the ecosystem agree on a common framework for exploration, like a lighthouse to illuminate the unknown. The work on a common vision can start with a question such as: How can we create a resilient local production? It is by questioning the contributions of each stakeholder to the ecosystem that a profusion of value propositions in response to the challenges of the ecosystem results.

The sustainable innovation strategy is therefore conceived as an open innovation strategy. Built through consultation, it orchestrates a desirable vision for the players in the ecosystem, exchanges of skills and collective design of responsible value propositions.



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