Laura Petrolino

Why Your Organization Needs an Innovation Strategy

By: Laura Petrolino | January 9, 2017 | 

Why Your Organization Needs an Innovation StrategyToday is the 10 year anniversary of the announcement of the iPhone.

(Heeeey….don’t we all feel old now? You’re welcome.)

Which makes it an excellent day to think about your organization’s innovation strategy—or why you need one, if it doesn’t yet exist.

EVERY organization—whether one person or 10,000 people—must have an innovation strategy.

It must cover two very important ways innovation will affect your organization (because it will, whether you want it to or not):

  • The innovation you bring to the market.
  • How you respond to the innovation the market brings to you.

Why Service Companies Need an Innovation Strategy

When you are a service company, as most communications agencies are (and for that matter, when you are a service-focused professional), it’s very, very easy to sit back and think innovation is for “product” companies.

And that’s the quickest way for you to go out of business.

An innovation strategy is needed for every company, because as the world changes, it changes how we do business.

Even more so, it changes the way we communicate—which is what we specialize in, as professional communicators.

It could be argued that it’s more important for communicators to have an innovation strategy, than tech or SaaS companies, because any innovation affects us first.

The services you offer today, will not make any sense five or 10 years from now, so unless you have an innovation strategy, you’ll be left behind.

Stop and think about how much has changed in how we live and work because of the iPhone.

Think Blockbuster vs. (innovation focused) Netflix…

Or the dire state of malls


I could go on.

Rule of Innovation: Once You’re Ahead, You’re Behind

When developing any innovation strategy, it’s important to remember the golden rule of innovation: As soon as you are the leader, you are falling behind.

So if what you do or sell is revolutionary, state-of-the-art, X-Men level of new fangled thinking, you can guarantee as soon as you announce or launch it, you have about three seconds before someone is on your heels.

Think of the innovation cycle like buying a car. As soon as you take it off the lot it depreciates painfully fast.

The only way to survive this is to accept that innovation never stops.

Success is a thinking man’s (or woman’s) sport. You constantly need to be watching and preparing for how you will adjust to the next trends and opportunities.

A good example here is the Palm Pilot.

When I was visiting my parents during the holidays, I found my old, ooooold Palm Pilot, tucked in the back of a drawer.

The Palm Pilot WAS the “next big thing,” it was impossible to use, and took eight times longer than just writing things down on a note pad and paper, but it was one of the leaders in “personal digital assistants,”…..until it wasn’t (even sadder the article linked here only has three shares..…that’s just embarrassing).

Why Your Organization Needs an Innovation Strategy

Note, by the reflection, how my Dad took a photo of my old, archaic Palm Pilot with his iPhone. Ironic much?

Your Reactive Innovation Strategy

Which brings us to the next part of innovation—the one the market brings to you.

New innovation changes the way we do everything.

Take a moment and think about how the following changed how you work and do business:

  • Email.
  • The iPhone (or the smartphone).
  • Social media.

These are all things that have come into existence during most of our working careers.

And they’ve changed everything.

Companies that were able to adapt and prepared as they saw these changes coming down the road, thrived.

The rest did not.

Innovation is happening more quickly than ever before.

That requires us to be more forward-thinking and prepare for how the things in development right now WILL change our roles forever.

How does your organization prepare for innovation? Do you actively build an innovation strategy?

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • I still have a Palm Pilot and a ZipDrive. Not sure if I should donate or ditch! Along the lines of your post, Blackberry is trying to re-invent itself and MySpace became super-niche to survive. It’s interesting to see the innovation paths. Tom Goodwin is a good person to follow on LinkedIn for this topic.

    • Oh, thanks for the tip on Tom Goodwin, following him now. It really is interesting watching the paths, obstacles, etc. that innovation takes. I was talking to my Dad this morning (we have early morning talks on my way to and from the gym), about a lot of the amazing innovation and research that has been done around transportation issues, all which basically has set unapplied because of lack of funding. So many elements go into success, it’s a good lesson to watch a variety of case studies or what worked and what didn’t.

      • Oh, and I think I’m going to try to sell my Palm on ebay for zillions of dollars! You should do the same, we will be rich! 😉

    • I have both of those stashed away in a drawer with my 1st gen iPod…

  • Dawn Buford

    Great food for thought Laura. I remember my Blackberry and was super excited when I got my first iPhone. It is incredibly important for businesses to stay ahead of the game in order to thrive and continue to grow.

    • I remember my first Blackberry too….because I had to replace it eight times due to technical glitches! LOL!

  • This is valid for PR pros as well. You need to innovate in your job and career. You need to continuously learn.

    From a business stand point, I’m curious how Europe embraces innovation in the next couple of years.

    As a side note Tesla is strongly entering the European market forcing innovation. Let’s see how the rest of businesses adapt.

    • Every industry needs a Tesla, or an Apple….it brings the rest of the industry up.

  • PaulJKrupin

    For more in-depth information and tips on Innovation Strategies here’s a link to Presari – Select where you want your information to come from

  • Bill Dorman

    I started in commercial (businesses) insurance sales 35 years ago (yeah, I know you can count the rings on my trunk) and in an innovation sense, that was about 3 lifetimes ago. I’ve seen the fax machine come and go, holy mackerel, huh?

    As more and more of our business becomes ‘commoditized’ we better be on the front of the curve with innovation or else we will be treated just like any vendor and easily interchangeable.

    Like you say, if you are in the service industry you better be bringing a quantifiable value to the table and innovative enough to stand out. The challenge is to systematically take the time to do this thinking and not get caught up fighting fires everyday thinking everything will always be like it is.

    • Yes!! Exactly!

      (p.s. I was just talking about fax machines the other day. They were still in use when I first started working and I remember feeling so “grown up” when I used one!)

  • Compass(x) Strategy

    Laura – great post. As you articulated, companies that don’t remain relevant to their customers eventually find themselves with fewer customers!

    However, there are two big risks that can result from a leadership imperative for an innovation strategy:
    – The risk of creating offerings that nobody wants
    – The risk of creating offerings that demand capabilities and expertise that your firm doesn’t have or isn’t known for, making it costly to sell and maintain.

    So, how do you ensure that that your innovation strategy builds your brand and keeps you relevant and profitably in-demand?

    1. Know your customers: What problems are they facing? How are they currently trying to address those problems? How’s their approach working or not working for them?

    2. Know how and why they choose you: Under what circumstances do your customers choose to work with you? Under what circumstances do they choose to work with someone else? Why? How do they think and feel about you and your services?

    3. Know yourself: What assets, infrastructure, resources, expertise, or other special sauce do you have?

    From this knowledge base, you can be strategic about your innovation effort, creating new services that are consistent with your brand and credibly meet customer needs. Innovation takes time and money. Don’t guess!

    Thanks for starting this discussion, Laura!

    • Love, love, love, love this Nancy. Yes, on all points! Innovation for the sake of innovation is just wasteful! I think we are going to need a follow-up blog post from you on this 🙂 About to email you!