Back to basics: What is your purpose?

Photo: by Björn Simon in

As we’ve seen, the challenge for innovation pioneers came when a more adverse economic climate infected the corporate world. Innovation became a secondary concern, even seen as the cause of the sudden climate change. It had distracted us from our core values.

Today and more than ever, going back to that same core, innovation only makes sense if it has a purpose – a problem to be solved. These are the main questions to ask:

– What is the job you want innovation to do?
– What is the business challenge in leadership’s agenda that can find new answers through innovation?

Innovation is the structured search for differentiation, to tap sources of new answers to your challenges, whether yours is a disruptive challenge, such as re-inventing an industry, a more short-term ambition, such as improving a business process, a product or a service – or re-inventing your customer experience.

Over the last 15 years of designing and implementing innovation initiatives, we at Exago have learned that those who actually sustain innovation over time are committed to finding tangible answers. Innovation efforts have higher rates of success when built to generate answers in the form of actionable ideas and projects – in other words, to transform ideas into value.

Innovation needs a purpose. Acknowledging this has implications and suggests new questions in the way we design and run these efforts:

1. Defining the challenge: What challenges can innovation address? Or, more exactly, can innovation processes and methods address a particular business challenge?

2. Ownership: Who should lead these efforts: an innovation team or the business challenge owner? For instance, if the initiative aims at re-inventing how the organisation attracts and retains talent, should HR or the innovation team lead the way?

(While there’s no right answer to this question, we believe it should be co-led by both innovation and the business area in question. Business areas provide the resolve, challenges, resources and decision-making criteria to bring innovations to life. And innovation brings the processes, tools, methods ans skills to apply to the challenges.)

3. Measurement: What qualifies as a success must be defined at the beginning of each innovation initiative. When can we expect tangible outcomes? What are these outcomes? How are we going to measure them? Do we have the time allowance and resources to support our efforts until then?

4. Mandate: When designing the effort, you must clearly understand the mandate. If it’s just about getting a set of answers, what does it mean when you’ve received them? Does it mean closure? Does it mean it’s time to look for another challenge? We seldom ask these questions, yet they are important in outlining the effort’s validity.

1. Back to basics: why are we doing this, really?

3. Back to basics: Define appropriate goals

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

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