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Innovation Styles

An innomation briefing by Stewart McKie.

Content: Introduction
May 2006
Innovation Styles
Introducing two styles of innovation.
When you approach innovation from a process and
technology perspective it becomes clear that innovation is
Top-Down Innovation
The process and technology of top- not one kind of process supported by one technology
down or strategy-driven innovation. “landscape” - it depends on the style of innovation that you
intend to focus on in your business.
Bottom-Up Innovation
The process and technology of
bottom-up or idea-driven innovation. Here we use the term innovation “style” as a means of
differentiating what we are talking about here from other
ways of categorizing innovation, for example:

• Incremental innovation that has a sustaining impact

in the marketplace.

• Radical innovation that has a disruptive impact in the


The two styles briefly outlined here are top-down or

strategy-driven innovation and bottom-up or idea-driven
innovation. It is important to note that they are not
mutually exclusive styles in that idea-driven innovation is a
way of assisting with strategy-driven innovation.

The aim of this briefing is to help readers to understand

the differences between the two styles in terms of their
process and process support technology.
Top-Down Innovation
Driven by Strategy

Intentional and sustained
innovation cannot depend on an
ad-hoc process. Instead it must
be driven by a strategy to

Strategy-driven innovation is a
top-down innovation style that
reflects upper management’s
vision for the development of
the business in the future.

The process involves envisioning the strategy; creating a strategic plan to execute the strategy,
developing the innovation deliverables demanded by the strategy and realizing the value of
those deliverables in the marketplace.

The technology landscape for
strategy-driven innovation is
dominated by roadmapping -
both the technique and tool.

Creating roadmaps to reflect

the strategic plan helps you to
envision the strategy, plan its
execution, manage innovation
deliverable development and
the realization of value in the
A wide variety of other software tools have their own part to play to support the roadmapping
effort at different phases of the process, but all are essentially contributing to the view
represented by the innovation roadmap that in turn reflects the organization’s strategy.

(c) Stewart McKie, 2006 -2-

Bottom-Up Innovation
Driven by Ideas

Idea-driven innovation
supports strategy-driven
innovation but comes from
the bottom-up rather than
the top-down.

This innovation style

reflects the fact that ideas
are often stimulated by
deliberate campaigns
intended to improve or
solve a problem that could
involve a wide range of
internal and external
stakeholders in the business.

And these improvements or problem solving requests are often prompted by the need to
change strategy in response to outside events, such as a competitor initiative or the availability
of new knowledge or technology for example

The technology landscape for
idea-driven innovation is
dominated by idea management
- both the process and tool.
Again there is a wide universe of
solutions to help with the
process activities of generating,
qualifying, developing and
realizing the value of ideas. In
essence managing the idea
pipeline (quantitative) and idea
portfolio (qualitative).

Idea management manages a process that includes idea

• Stimulation and collection

• Screening and adding value
• Qualifying and evaluating
• Dispatch

(c) Stewart McKie, 2006 -3-

• Reward and recognition

Three Steps About the Author

for Success Stewart McKie

1. Decide which style to focus Stewart McKie is an IT innovation consultant with over 20
attention on and conduct a years industry experience. He has an MSc in Organizational
people/process/technology Consulting from Ashridge, a leading UK business school.
audit of competence and
Stewart’s service offering includes:

2. Make sure that everyone

involved with your style of • software selection process management
innovation understands the • application due diligence for M&A activity
process and the technology
• idea management introductory workshops
support available.
• white paper/article/web content writing
2. Ensure that the core • application prototype development
technology is in place to
support each process, namely
You can contact Stewart:
Roadmapping and Idea
• by email at
• by telephone at +44 (0) 1747 852659 (GMT).

(c) Stewart McKie, 2006 -4-