The distinction between an ‘innovation strategy’ and an ‘innovation management strategy’

Are you aware of the difference?

There tends to be some confusion in the innovation community of whether it should be called an ‘innovation strategy‘ or an ‘innovation management strategy‘. So let me break it to you – they both exist, they are not the same, they are two valid strategies, and they complement each other.

The innovation management strategy

The innovation management strategy – as you can probably tell from the title – is the strategy for how you shall work with innovation management. The strategy sets the strategic goals for your innovation work and depicts your future innovation management system, your innovation management services, and your organization for innovation, among other things. You set a vision for innovation management, you set objectives for your innovation management system, and you set strategic goals for how your innovation process and system will look like in the near future.

The relationship between innovation strategies and innovations

To simplify it you can say that the innovation management strategy is the strategy for how to improve your innovation performance. It aims to minimize the gap between your current innovation performance and your desired innovation performance. It sets clarification to what innovation services you plan to implement, how they are thought to interact with one another, and what the innovation process will look like.

The innovation strategy

The innovation strategy on the other hand sets the direction and focus of the innovation management system. It specifies how your innovation management system and services are to be utilized. The innovation strategy declares what kind of innovations we are gunning for, thus it is closely connected to your innovation portfolio. It will contain guidelines for innovation horizons (incremental to radical), it will provide instructions for which innovation projects to approve and how to evaluate them, it will support the distribution of funds to innovation initiatives, it will highlight the areas and types of innovation the organization should focus on, and so on.

The innovation strategy is the strategy to guide your innovation outputs – the types of innovations you wish to realize. It is a vital complement to the innovation management strategy in that it points out the utilization of the innovation management system and ensures the expected outcomes of innovation. As the innovation management strategy depicts the how, the innovation strategy points out the what.

Recommendations for actions for innovation managers

Where the innovation management strategy creates the foundation, the innovation strategy sets the direction. (See the image above.) My recommendation is to develop the two in tandem if plausible, so that you get to set the direction for innovation at the same time as you are defining how your system should operate. This drives for smooth integration down the line. Both are essential, as you don’t want to have a direction with no capacity to deliver on it. And similarly you don’t want to have the capacity, but no direction to what you should deliver. But to many, just becoming aware of the distinction of the two different purposes of the strategies is a good first step. 👍🏼