Your Roadmap to Technology and Innovation Mastery: How to become more innovative (Part 2)

Reading time 11 minutes.

Questions you ask:

  • How do I increase our innovation performance?
  • How do I become more innovative?
  • What do the best innovators do to succeed?
  • What are the barriers to innovation?

PART 2: The roots of innovation improvement: Maturity to Measurement to Mastery

In the first part of this article LINK, I laid out the problem with strategic planning for technology and innovation and the reasons why so often that planning fails to convert to business results.

This article takes the next step.

How can the organisation make sense of the realities of its innovative capability and set an agenda for improvement?

How can we respond to avoid these planning and execution problems? How might we raise our technology and innovation game towards improvement and possibly, Mastery?

We need several pieces.

  1. The ability to benchmark a firm’s current state of innovation capability.
  2. A framework for describing what is it about its current state this is good or bad and in need of improvement and
  3. A framework for managing the change.

A Framework to Review our innovation performance

In the specific area of technology and innovation management, the Centre for Technology Management at the Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge University developed the work of John Bessant et al to combine it with its well-used ISEAP technology management model.


ISEAP emerged to provide a systems-level view of how organisations effectively manage their technology and innovation activities. The framework was developed to have a coherent conversation about that maturity. It is possible, indeed desirable, that by assessing its strengths and weaknesses that critical gaps emerge that hold back potential innovation and growth.

Maturity Level: The way to measure innovation performance

The concept of Maturity Levels emerged from information technology projects in the 1990s (See Mark Paulk, 1993). It’s a good idea; how to benchmark the capability on a managerially relevant topic to deliberately improve the situation.

The idea of a capability maturity model has been applied to many topics and technology and innovation management has also benefitted from its simplicity.

Developing real maturity in this area needs at the very least an organisational development lens and possibly one about transformation. If a company lacks agreed direction about the necessary investment in skills, facilities and general intent about what it focuses on it cannot improve coherently.

Simply put we can plot a capability level over time and several stages. A core concept is that of Absorptive Capacity as the ability of firms to recognize, assimilate and apply new knowledge for the benefit of their business performance.

Companies can invest in things that increase Absorptive capacity and achieve higher levels of results. The higher levels are Leaders in an industry or even a level of “Mastery” at the summit.

Combining these two approaches; the ISEAP framework and the Maturity level an organisation can be assessed for strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

When we establish the current state we can work to shift the organisation to a desired future state.  But in some respects, it’s all very well knowing where you are and where you want to be. What about generating real innovations and technologies that will be used in the future?

This is where the innovation rubber hits the road.

Innovation capability ladder

The next necessary part is about deployment.

Assess  and Prioritise  -> Redeploy via Pilots -> Handle the Change

The Innovator’s Workshop to lift our innovation performance

What if… we could deploy a set of agile, rapid and flexible strategic “tools” that could lift our innovation performance?

In innovation management Metaphors are useful. Consider the workshop of a master craftsman. The craftsman has over the years built up a collection of his favoured tools for each job. Tools are selected for the job at hand; some mainstays and others specifically for a specialist task. Basic jobs need essential tools and specials when a unique effort is needed.

Innovator’s workshops are assembled to help solve complex technology challenges.

Consider the different tasks: Exploration, assessment, options, communication.

Behind each broad area is an individual tool; an approach to examining an important aspect of the planning problem.

Exploration: Trends and Drivers analysis, scenario analysis.  Creative idea generation and Competitive Analysis and Market Intelligence on where things are heading. SWOT. Innovation Matrix.

Decision-making/options: Decision making, for example, do we make technology or buy via acquisition or collaboration? Assessment of technology risk. Capabilities analysis.

Communication and Tracking: Plans and messages to the wider organisation and stakeholders. Visualisation and Business cases. Technology and Innovation Assessment. Measures with KPM/Is?  The Balanced Scorecard.

The Minimum Viable Workshop

I’d like to introduce you to a first Tool; the strategic technology roadmap. It is used to map, over time, why change is driving the firm, what will create value and how it is enabled. Critically, time is a feature.

It describes a desired future state, where we are now and what the gap looks like. By stitching these together, a rich, visual narrative is produced.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words; it was a roadmap they had in mind…

A roadmapping Workshop should be well designed and facilitated. Getting the right people into the room is a core principle. But even so, the amount of information can become a little overwhelming. Let’s add just more two more tools; the linking grid and a portfolio matrix view.

Now, we can correctly assess high potential ideas for value creation and understand what capabilities are needed to support what value creation opportunities and their relationship to which trends and drivers.

Let’s stop there and consider: This small toolkit of three tools can take you a long way. It’s ideal for quick exploration and strategic conversations from SMEs to the biggest companies.

Creating Strategy

But what about more radical or deeper exploration, if a division needs to refresh its technology strategy? Or a new topic, like digitalisation, comes along and you want to explore meaning, options and implications? We need to supplement our minimum viable workshop with more specialist approaches. Let’s consider three cases where the technology and innovation planner needs to work.

Three cases are shown.

Case 1: Capability Harvesting what does that toolbox look like?

In this situation, an organisation has a wide range of enablers including technologies that it wants to harvest and create more value from. It could be that two companies have just merged and want to consolidate and exploit their newfound technical enablers.  Or as a technology-rich firm wanting to prune the technology portfolio to release resources for its future-facing mission.  An innovator’s workshop is designed for this task by supplementing strategic roadmapping with other specific approaches.

Case 2: Some kind of Transformation motive eg Digitalisation or Sustainability

Companies are faced with threats and opportunities in the face of disruptive technologies, business environment, climate heating and resource depletion.  These are transformational and threaten the future firm unless it transforms – think oil firms in transition to integrated energy firms or users of oil-based chemical feedstock shifting to bio-derived feedstocks.

This will require a deep and detailed review incorporating more approaches to give a necessarily both wide and deep view. EG The innovator’s workshop supplements strategic roadmapping with an analysis of trends and drivers and market and technology intelligence. Also, being able to assess the future-facing capabilities needed for the transition and consider the technological uncertainty or risks. And while, as is common in these three examples, an initial business case is used to start conversations with stakeholders and internal investors.

Technology Strategy for Transformation

Case 3: Corporate Technology and innovation strategy what does that toolbox look like?

For situations where companies want to develop their technology and or innovation strategy, the innovator’s workshop will add in special technology tools such as make v buy, technology intelligence and capabilities analysis.  If a corporate was to do this, a multi-layer approach would form the structural approach, with corporate concerns at the top player, individual application areas or themes at the next lever and individual solutions at the next.

Corporate Technology Strategy

In the next part, I will lay out how to deliver the innovation improvement; by handling the transition and changes.

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Rob Munro delivers strategic innovation services to companies, universities and government agencies giving business and innovation leaders the practices, tools and confidence to achieve best in class innovation results. Please contact me to discuss ways to bring greater effectiveness to your innovation processes. This article is partly drawn via his association with IfM Engage at the University of Cambridge

Read more about my service to organisations for innovation planning in improving innovation results.


Further Reading

  1. Roadmapping for Strategy and Innovation, Rob Phaal, Clare Farrukh, David Probert, University of Cambridge, 2011
  2. Cogitate, articulate, communicate: the psychosocial reality of technology roadmapping and roadmaps, Clive Kerr, Robert Phaal, David Probert, R&D Management, 2012
  3. Leinwand P, Mainardi C, Kleiner A (2015), Only 8% of Leaders and Good at Both Strategy and Execution, HBR Blog
  4. Cooper, R. G., & Edgett, S. J. (2010). Developing a product innovation and technology strategy for your business. Research-Technology Management, 53(3), 33-40.
  5. George B, Walker R M, Monster J, (2019), Does Strategic Planning Improve Organizational Performance? A Meta-Analysis, Public Administration Review, 79 (6) 810-819
  6. Dasgupta, M., Gupta, R., Sahay A. (2011). Linking Technological Innovation, Technology Strategy and Organizational Factors: A review. Global Business Review 12 (2) 257 – 277
  7. Kerr, C., Phaal, R., Thams, K. (2016). Customising and deploying roadmapping in an organisational setting: The LEGO Group experience, R&D Management Conference July 2016, Cambridge, UK
  8. Ilevbare, I. (2016). Business-aligned technology strategy – why, what and how? Report for Strategic Technology & Innovation Management Programme 2016.Centre for Technology Management, Institute for Manufacturing, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge.