Portfolio Innovation

7 Tactics to Take Your Innovation Portfolio from Theory to Practice

In a recent webinar with Innov8rs Learning Labs, Productable's Founder & CEO discussed easy ways to get started with innovation portfolios. Read on to learn more about these tactics and review a simple portfolio canvas to get started.

Let’s say that you’re the newly appointed innovation chief for a big corporation, and you’ve just inherited a bit of a mess. Your organization seems to have no structure or process of any kind, and it’s up to you to turn that around and deliver against company objectives. Ultimately, you need to increase innovation return on investment. 

In a recent talk with Innov8rs Learning Labs, I gave innovation leaders easy portfolio management tactics they can use to take their innovation portfolios from theory to practice.

Watch the webinar here.

Here they are: 

1. Just get started.

Remember, you’ve inherited a new program and a new team, so you’re going to need to do a thorough project audit -- what innovations is your team working on and who owns the progress of each project? Simply organizing projects into themes can be the start of your first few innovation portfolios. 

This helps you to avoid falling into analysis paralysis.

2. Establish a cadence.

This one is so important to portfolio management but often overlooked. Establishing a cadence for check-ins and updates is critical if you want to keep things moving. In these updates, you should be evaluating progress, finding out what barriers your innovators are facing and determining how you can help them. 

This ensures barriers are unblocked promptly. 

3. Create standard stages.

Think stages of a pipeline here, much like a marketing or sales funnel. An easy way to get started is to simply use Early Stage, Mid Stage and Late Stage. In your Early Stage, innovators do activities to prove they have a real problem to solve. Mid Stage development shows people find the solution valuable, and Late Stage exists to scale the solution. Don’t forget to assign decision owners for each stage!

This leads to reliable concept development. 

4. Develop decision criteria. 

These guidelines articulate what you expect an innovation to achieve. It’s critical to predefine criteria and supporting metrics at every stage of your pipeline then communicate this criteria to your innovators. This creates transparency, so they know exactly what it takes to get a yes. 

This shows what success looks like for all involved. 

5. Standardize reports and data. 

Decision criteria determines the data you receive in your reports. The Productable software focuses innovators on the criteria you’ve established and collects data on progress, including time spent in each stage, specific innovator insights and data points around each criteria. The output is a standardized report leaders use to make confident, data-driven decisions. 

This makes sure you compare apples to apples.

6. Predetermine funding. 

This advanced tactic is a great way to level up your innovation portfolio. We borrow this from the venture capital world -- think Series A, B, C, etc -- and apply it to your standardized stages. For example, perhaps every innovation in your Early Stage gets $500 in funding. Those that move on to Mid Stage get $1,000, and those that advance to Late Stage get $10,000 in funding. 

This maximizes innovation return on investment. 

7. Make room to refactor. 

In the spirit of true innovation, you must allow room for improvement and maturity. This could come in the form of adjusting your decision criteria or funding models, or it could be adding strategic layers to your portfolio to increase complexity and performance. 

This gives you permission to alter your course.

I always tell innovation leaders not to bite off more than they can chew when it comes to portfolio management. Taking your innovation portfolio from theory to practice requires starting small and building from there.

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Author: Rachel Kuhr Conn

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