Innovation Ambition Matrix

Goal: Unify and Balance Innovation Efforts

A company’s survival depends on its ability to innovate and advance. However, ideas to do so often become diluted by poor management strategies. This leaves your team with a chaotic scattering of competing attempts rather than a unified innovation effort. Fortunately, Monitor’s revolutionary co-partners — Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff — have thoroughly researched this phenomena, describing their groundbreaking discoveries for balancing innovation matrices in their article, “Managing Your Innovation Portfolio,” published in the May 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review. To solve the issue of inefficient team efforts, these experts have used their findings to create the Innovation Ambition Matrix. Inspired by Igor Ansoff’s strategic Product/Market Grid, this game creates a holistic view of how to get ahead by organizing initiatives and goals based on three levels: core, adjacent, and transformational. Innovation Games has created an online “instant play” version of this productive strategy, so dispersed innovation teams can collaborate to identify what balance among the ambition levels will make their company most successful.

How to Play

Start by drawing a graph on a large white board or poster. On the x-axis, write “How to Win.” This is designated for the novelty of the product that you are offering to your customers. Are you using existing, adding incremental, or developing new products? Next, write “Where to Play” on the y-axis. This measures the novelty of your customers. Will your innovation serve your existing, enter an adjacent, or create a new market? Then, draw three curves within the axes as seen in the picture on the right to represent the three levels of innovation ambition.
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  • Core (closest to origin): optimize your current products for current customers (ex. make faster technology)
  • Adjacent: add a new feature to your existing business (ex. create an app version of your website)
  • Transformational: create breakthroughs for markets that do not currently exist

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Then, hand out sticky notes and pens to your team members. Ask them to write current initiatives that they are working on and to post them in the respective area on the chart. When everyone has contributed, discuss how these notes connect and how to unify them so everyone is working toward the same mission. This will eliminate competing developments and allow everyone to understand the overall goal for the innovation.

How It Works

By identifying how to allocate innovation activity, teams can strike and maintain their unique balance required for growth. Innovation Ambition Matrix helps identify this core:adjacent:transformational ratio, which enhances understanding of where to put efforts and how to unify endeavors. Also, the game helps managers survey the initiatives of their teams and provides a chance to discuss the overall ambition of a project.

To learn more about Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff, and the importance of a balanced innovation profile, click here.

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