Innovation of Business

and the
Business of Innovation™
Innovating Strategy

Direction, Structure, and Action

Imagine this situation. A colleague presents an opportunity or describes a problem in enough detail that the “What?” questions are answered. What is your natural next question? “How?” or “Why?”

Let’s face it. We live in a “How?” world. It’s taught in grades K-12, the military, university, and industry. We are shown the way, then tested on our abilities to remember that way. We don’t get to ask, “Why?” a test question is important. We must answer correctly, or be penalized.

And while “How?” is drummed in, “Why?” is drummed out. “Why?” challenges authority. It demands justifications. It’s seen as rude and unfriendly. Perhaps even accusatory. “Why?” threatens the status quo. It takes us out of our comfort zones.

Nevertheless and in spite of all of that, “Why?” is a precious business tool. More than that, it is a survival tool. (Pause…) Are you now asking yourself “Why?” Why is “Why?” so important? Try saying the question out loud. “Why?” Well, now that you mention it, thank you for asking. Here is your answer.

“Why?” is the core skill of leaders and strategists.
“How?” is the core skill of managers and tacticians.
“Why?” opens doors to change and leadership. “Why?” finds more strategic options, improving performance and leveraging strengths. “Why?” tests solutions, ensuring viability of results. In short, “Why?” is the essence of innovation.

Sadly, organizations every day go happily down the path of taking actions without ever deciding if they should be done. Consider this. Our job is never to act, but is to achieve our goals, on time, in budget, and in the face of complexity, resistance, and barriers.

Consequences of a Tactical Approach

Inefficiency: Actions done for the wrong reasons. Actions for the right reasons but in the wrong way. Right reasons, right way - wrong audience. Right reasons, way, & audience - wrong message. Right reasons, way, audience, & message - wrong time. And on and on.

Waste: Business actions cost money. We can’t afford to lose time, resources, or enthusiasm. Poorly chosen actions kill opportunities by preventing other actions and creating delays. We may reach objectives, but too late… or increase risk without increasing rewards.

Poor image: Tactical floundering hurts image. Our marketplace may see us as thrashing – going in too many directions, not focused. Credibility dies through ineptness as much as through failure. Image impacts everything from funding to alliances to the quality of employees attracted.

Low revenues: Tactical actions create less value than strategic actions. We waste money rather than make money. ROI stagnates at best. Capital resources determine what opportunities can be sought and what risks taken. Weak revenues hamstring our business.

Failure to survive: Tactical actions speed the death of projects, products, and companies. Those actions may seem fine at the time, yet accumulation of weakness leads to failure. Competition is inevitable, and competitors will happily replace us if we let them.

Higher stress: Under pressure, we all tend to go back to our own drawing boards: scientists to research, engineers to design, accountants to their spreadsheets. Our very best resort, however, is to go back to strategizing. We need new methods, not more of what got us in trouble in the first place.






Reality Check




Back when I first began consulting, a friend gave me a gift. Not much. Just an acronym. GOSPA™. It turns out that GOSPA is a powerful paradigm. It defines the “Why?” way of business. More than that, it clarifies and justifies the “Why?” approach to innovation of businesses, product, strategies, and personal careers.

This is GOSPA. From a business perspective, this the very best gift I’ve ever received. (See the definitions in the appendix.)

GOSPA provides both discipline and process that always leads to strategy before tactics. Apply it consistently, and you will become strategic. Act strategically long enough, and you’ll be recognized as a leader.

The strategic approach works top down in GOSPA. Set goals; choose achievable objectives; find the best methods (strategies); plan, and implement. This mode always develops clear connections between goals and actions.

The tactical approach stays at the bottom of GOSPA. Start with an action; plan it; and implement. Tactics can be very satisfying and results impressive, yet without furthering any goals.

The reality check evaluates each strategy for both its ability to reach the objective and our ability to implement. Doing the check requires learning enough about the strategy to be able to estimate resource requirements. Reality checks may cause revision of strategies and/or objectives. We may iterate through objectives/strategies/reality several times to find the best combination of options.

At the end of a plan period, we compare results to our objectives. Success implies effective strategy.

In the long run, one strategy rarely ever achieves an important objective. Thus we need an integrated strategy - a scenario of strategies more powerful than any single strategy. Integrated strategies require greater resources (budget, timing, staffing, etc.) than single strategies.

If an integrated strategy doesn’t pass an integrated reality check, consider adding a resource-development strategy. (e.g., training of staff, persuading corporate investment in systems, etc.) That is, don’t just change objectives and strategies. be afraid to change reality.

A well written integrated strategy can replace a plan. Indeed, a strategy is easier to write and evolve. Details of implementation are then done in tactical plans that invite and leverage the experience and expertise of those who will implement.

To emphasize: Ordinary businesses write plans. Innovated businesses innovate strategy. Ordinary businesses congratulate themselves on well done actions. Innovated businesses measure success by reaching objectives as steps toward goals. Ordinary businesses waste strengths. Innovated businesses design initiatives to leverage strengths at all levels. Ordinary businesses settle for profits. Innovated businesses strive for ongoing strategic relationships that that deliver both ROI and competitive edge.


Keys to application of GOSPA include:
1. GOSPA nests. GOSPA can be applied at levels from corporate down to projects. Strategies at corporate level define business functions. Corporate goals set directions for, say, the innovation function. Innovation objectives set requirements for portfolio management. From the perspective of the CEO, innovation is a strategy. Within portfolio management, a software tool is a strategy.

2. Goals are broad and general. They are results, not processes, so name them with nouns. Define each name with a sentence. Choose six or fewer goals that encompass all results the organization wants to achieve. Goals nest, just like GOSPA. Goals at any level need to support those of all higher levels.

3. Objectives are specific. State them in phrases that specify amounts, dates, quality, and responsibilities. Significant changes in any measure could force revisions in strategy.

4. Strategies structure businesses. Every action taken can be seen as a strategy for reaching corporate objectives by reaching functional objectives by reaching project objectives. At company level, business, function, and project are all strategies for creating wealth for stakeholders.

5. Remember your brand. Whether temporary project or multi-national corporation, design strategies for developing, communicating, and then honoring value promises to your stakeholders and customers. At product level, use value promises as strategies for both completing products and creating customer loyalty.

6. Remember internal marketing. Success with any integrated strategy requires energetic mental buy-in by those who will implement.

The time for a strategic approach is now!

Goals show directions.
Objectives set requirements.
Strategies establish methods.
Plans determine resources.
Funding enables capabilities.
Delegation assigns responsibilities.
Action invests resources.
Measurement tests efficacy.

Appendix: GOSPA Definitions (The Market Engineering Dictionary, Edition 16, 2005, p15)

Goal: A desirable long term result toward which we want to work. A strategic direction. Goals last for years.

Objective: A clearly defined, achievable, assignable, time-able, and measurable near term result toward which we want to work. Short term element of a goal. Objectives change with plan period.

Strategy: A specific method for achieving a goals, reaching an objective, or meeting a need.

Core strategy: A category of methods (e.g., marketing) that provides strategic direction, yet will evolve over time.

Integrated strategy: A tightly linked suite of methods, connected, timed, and coordinated to achieve a specific set of objectives.
Tactic: A process or resource managed by a strategy to achieve an objective.
Reality Check: Test of a strategy or integrated strategy to determine if it will work, if resources are committed, if it can be delegated, and if it has an element of genius.
Plan: Summary of decisions about results to achieve with details of methods and timing for accomplishing those results. Detail of a method, formulated beforehand, for accomplishing a result. A map of how to achieve objectives.
Action: Execution of a strategy or tactic.


27. It seems safe to say that significant discovery, really creative thinking, does not occur with regard to problems about which the thinker is lukewarm. (Mary Henle)

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