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Using Innovation Strategy Frameworks

By Brian Martin posted 10-19-2021 18:05


PDMA Body of Knowledge: Strategy Insights #3

Read time:
7 minutes

The kHUB Curator Team members have each been assigned a BoK section to own, including seeking, editing and sharing content related to that section.  The curators are also sharing their perspective of various sub-sections of their chapter and contributing personal examples, experience, or related articles corresponding to the subject matter.

Chapter 1 – Strategy Insight

Strategy table

Using Innovation Strategy Frameworks 

Section 1.6 of the PDMA BoK speaks about innovation strategy frameworks and how they can be foundational for developing an innovation strategy.

Michael Porter’s strategic framework is covered in there and outlines the choices between cost leadership, differentiation, and focus.  Miles and Snow outline four different strategies of prospectors, analyzers, defenders and reactors. Each has pros and cons that can be evaluated to align with the approach and ethos of the organization. The competitive environment can also influence the choice.

Innovation can be sustaining, providing incremental improvements to product performance, or disruptive, upending the basis of competition with the sector.

Another framework outlined by Pisano describes the four quadrants of innovation: Routine innovation, Disruptive innovation, Radical innovation, and Architectural innovation. This is also covered in the BoK in section 1.6.4. and provides yet another option for dissecting innovation strategy approaches.

These frameworks provide a lens through which innovation strategy choices can be analyzed to help understand the landscape of choices available. But how do you get going with which approach to take within the framework? Where do the initial germs of ideas come from?

The usefulness of frameworks such as these cannot be understated. However, developing an initial innovation strategy is in large part a creative process, and stimulating that creative process in conjunction with frameworks such as these can provide significant additional value.  It reminds me of the work of Oman et al. (2012) that found “Forced but structured stimuli have been proven to aid in creative processes”, and my experience is that it is the case that it is helpful. What follows are a few examples.

Figure 1 – Injecting stimuli into Frameworks can help extend your range of thinking 

We were looking at innovation opportunities for a popular but financially struggling digital news publication. Initial discussions with the team were frustrating. It was hard to break out of incrementalism, and ideas were in short supply. One or two team members even postulated that it was a hopeless case and a globally acknowledged unsurmountable problem in publishing more generally. Some argued we should propose to shut it down. We were stuck at the starting point of the innovative process. Luckily, an appetite to engage in a more creative process prevailed. 

The PDMA BoK section 1.5. explains what makes good innovation strategy and refers to research emphasizing the importance of creatives in that process.  Indeed, creativity is a necessary ingredient for innovation. We decided to try a technique some of us had learned previously. One of the team flipped a chart and asked, “What would happen if some new owners moved into the office and started making big changes?” and followed by presenting a series of companies on the screen: Disney, Google, Ryanair (European low-cost airline), AirBnB, Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, BBC, Apple, Innocent (natural smoothies), the list went on. 

The process worked!

  • Disney – we came up with the idea of produced real-world events, something to visit. Also, a news site for kids with only good news.
  • Google – the idea of promoting targeted ads based on the news interests’ profile of the reader.
  • Airbnb – we came up with the idea of a two-sided marketplace where users could put their content up for purchase by readers.

 The ideas just flowed, and we came up with dozens of options. We were up and running with ideas on where to point the innovation strategy.

Another framework I have often found helpful embodies the idea that there are many more areas of innovation than just product innovation. The Doblin model (Doblin, 2017) is comprehensive, offering ten areas within which to explore innovation.

Figure 2 - Doblin Model of Ten Types of Innovation

This framework gets you thinking not just about the product offering but the system of offerings in a portfolio. It gets you to consider how innovation strategy can be directed at the customer experience and the channels to market. And it drives a look at the overall configuration of the business and the structures and processes behind it.

Consider the Business Model Canvas (BMC) outlined in PDMA BoK 1.4.4, first developed by Alexander Osterwalder et al. (2010). It is a simple yet effective visual strategy tool that organizations, big and small, use for business model innovation. Osterwalder also came up with a framework for business model innovation based upon the business model canvas, including common patterns such as “Unbundling”, “The Long Tail”, and “Multi-sided platforms” that can be used across industries (Osterwalder and Pigneur, 2010, pp. 118-119). These business model “templates” can provide an excellent stimulus for injecting into the planning stage of innovation strategy development.

Figure 3 - Business Model Canvas

And as a final example, when an innovation specialist came on a visit to share her experience leading innovation at a leading insurance provider, she spoke about their innovation “quadrant” – namely that innovation could be about creation, elimination, improvement, and re-use. She described it as “a tool designed to build understanding, measure success and capability.” Only 10% of ideas coming forward were to develop something new. The rest related to improving, re-use or eliminating existing capabilities. It was simply a great way to widen the field of view concerning innovation options.


Figure 4: Innovation Quadrant 

We all sometimes fall into thinking about innovation and innovation strategy in one dimension. Using “forced, structured stimuli” to trigger creativity, aimed at the variety of models and frameworks described above, provides a powerful combination to develop wide-ranging ideas to fuel the innovative process. Indeed, the use of many different frameworks can help the development of innovation strategy and inject much-needed creativity into that critical process. Which frameworks have you found the most helpful in your innovation strategy endeavours?


Brian Martin

Brian Martin has over thirty years of Product Management, Product Development, Strategy and Innovation experience in numerous technology domains, most notably in Industrial Electronics, Telecommunications and Cyber Security. He has led various Product Management and Development functions in the B2B sector and has also held responsibility for Business Unit Strategy and Innovation. He holds a BSc. In Computer Applications from Dublin City University, an MBA from the Open University and a post-graduate diploma in Strategy and Innovation from the Irish Management Institute. Brian is currently Head of Product, Strategy and Innovation at Integrity360, one of the UK and Ireland’s leading cyber-security specialist solutions and services providers.

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