New research shows that the most resilient companies are those that continually orchestrate a dynamic balance of four innovation strategies.
Most agree that innovation ensures superior performance, but there is less agreement on which innovation strategy or strategies best sustain that performance over time — that is, which lead to resilience. The authors seek to answer that question by analyzing a set of global companies that have successfully adapted to diverse and turbulent changes over a period of two decades, as evidenced by their book value per share, return on assets and sales growth. Among those that sustained superior performance are multinationals such as pharmaceutical, coating and chemical manufacturer Akzo Nobel, electronics company Philips, energy and petrochemical company Shell, consumer goods manufacturer Unilever, life-science products and chemicals manufacturer DSM, multimedia publisher Wolters Kluwers, information and media provider VNU, investment and fund management group Robeco and brewing company Heineken.
The research shows that resilient companies continually orchestrate a dynamic balance of four innovation strategies: knowledge management, exploration (internal research and development), cooperation (acquisitions, alliances and other relationships) and entrepreneurship.
The authors conclude that focusing on one innovation strategy to the exclusion of others may produce innovation, but it will not lead to resilience. Pursuing several different innovation strategies simultaneously maximizes a company’s chances of successful adaptation. Investments in innovation, they say, should not be driven by costs or short-term returns but rather should flow naturally to the most effective strategy for the changing context. The timing of increasing or decreasing the emphasis on innovation strategies is important to maintain the dynamic balance, and that timing, they argue, is primarily the responsibility of leadership.