When Evaluating Innovation & Growth Strategy for 2018, Leaders Should be Asking Themselves These Questions

December 18th, 2017

‘Tis the season for setting goals, making budgets, and determining priorities for 2018, but what are the critical questions Bigco leaders should be asking themselves in order to actually stay relevant and shift as needed?

Especially in the face of uncertainty and market shifts, continuing to adapt and learn quickly are top priorities for most Bigco leaders. Here we outline six key questions that should be making that 2018 “to do list” for leaders:

ARE OUR INNOVATION AND GROWTH CAPABILITIES MODERNIZED FOR UNCERTAINTY?

More Bigcos are starting to come along for the ride, incorporating entrepreneurial competencies and methodologies into their business, but are you balancing the right mix of approaches? Often we’ll see companies who embrace one approach, like Design Thinking, which is incredibly beneficial in its empathy building and solving true needs but doesn’t always push teams to that next step of testing assumptions or incorporating Lean Startup approaches. How might your team start to modernize your portfolio of entrepreneurial approaches so that you’re holistically prepared in the face of uncertainty?

AM I READYING MYSELF FOR THE UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITY?

No matter how well a forecasting plan gets made, we guarantee there will be a golden opportunity this year that nobody at your company could have predicted. Have you already allocated 100% of your budgets? Or are you structuring your financials and resources to be able to take advantage of the unforeseen opportunity? Don’t let that opportunity sail by just because it wasn’t baked into the original plan.

WHOSE PASSION CAN I UNLEASH?

No matter how traditional or corporate the environment, every company has entrepreneurial employees that are chomping at the bit to try something new and disruptive. How might your team identify those “growth mindset” employees and start saying “yes” to that passion project they’ve been wanting to do? With little resources and money spent, it could lead to something great for the larger team.

AM I LOOKING EXTERNALLY FOR INSPIRATION AND THINKING ENOUGH?

The world is becoming exponentially more interconnected, and it’s likely the next great idea for your category won’t come from within your category. Do you have disciplines in place to get you not just out of your office for inspiration and growth, but completely outside of your category as well?

WHO IS OUR CONSUMER AND HOW ARE WE BUILDING REAL EMPATHY WITH THEM?

That doesn’t mean knowing the ins and outs of consumer segmentation stats. Building empathy with the consumer means that the team is bringing the consumer into every stage of the process to ensure that products and services going to market are truly meaningful and authentic. Does your 2018 action plan actually reflect what is best for the consumer…or is it rooted in financial outcomes alone?

WHAT IS THE SPECIFIC CONSUMER BEHAVIOR THAT INDICATES ‘DELIGHT’ WITH OUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE?

Let’s keep rolling on the importance of the consumer for a while. According to Eric Ries in his book, The Startup Way, for intrapreneurs to identify good metrics to build an assumption and eventually test a MVP off of it, they should be asking, “What is the specific consumer behavior that indicates ‘delight’ with our product or service?” Ries refers to this as the “Value Hypothesis.” In planning for 2018, it is critical to think through not only who the core consumer targets are, but also planning around that “value hypothesis” so that the team can continue to win at those “delighters.”

ARE WE PLANNING TO FAIL?

Yes, you read that right. “Fail fast” is a bit of a buzzword in the community right now, but the meaning behind it holds true. Failures help you to know when to pivot or kill an idea. When you’re operating in a low knowledge, high uncertainty area, operating with a relentless pursuit of experimentation is the only surefire way to know you’ll get it right. If your team has less than 50% of projects failing (we’re talking before going to market, within a couple months of project start,) then they’re probably not failing enough. That could mean that as part of 2018 planning, questions around how to incentivize teams and individuals for testing early and often should be something leadership is asking themselves and strategically thinking through.

In 2018 more than ever, adapting on-demand will be a critical skill for Bigcos. But beyond making the budget and checking it twice, there are plenty of other questions leaders should be thinking through in order to stay relevant in the new year. We’d love to learn more about the questions you’re asking yourselves and your team as well, so reach out! Happy planning.

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