Standing still is arguably the greatest threat to sustaining competitive advantage.
In a landscape in which new technologies are disrupting sectors on a daily basis, innovative organisations are turning to new methods to find an edge. As businesses increasingly rely on technology the old ways of working are fast being replaced. New methodologies such as agile are increasingly used not just by giant tech businesses such as Google or Amazon but increasingly SMEs and corporates. Agile enables requirements and solutions to evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organising and cross-functional teams and their customer/end-user. It enables quick delivery and test of incremental functionality. A key aspect of it is the design sprint.
The concept is relatively simple, but the potential benefits are great. Not just for the development of new technology but also in developing a culture of technology innovation across the business. There are many great guides out there and if you want to better understand the process and what it can do for you, I would guide you to take a look at this from Sheffield based tech consultancy Razor for a start.
The purpose of this piece is not to cover well-trodden ground but rather to pose a question. If the design sprint can be so effective for developing new technology, where else can these principles be applied and could one of those areas be in corporate strategy?
Slow down. Strategy takes time, doesn’t it?
Corporate strategy, not a conversation usually associated with speed and free-thinking in a risk-free environment. Strategy should be meticulously planned, carefully tested and implemented on a three to five-year planning horizon. All true. Yet, given the rate of change and risk of unexpected disruption currently seen across all sectors, is it time to consider a supplementary approach to strategy development?
The design sprint takes some of the most productive elements from the agile methodology. The process works because new ideas are free to be tested, in small groups in an environment designed to produce working prototypes in quick time. The outcome will be some new product or application, but the real differences are arguably felt at a deeper level. Sprint teams report feeling more engaged and more energised. They have a better understanding of their peers, of customer needs and of potential future trends which may impact the business.
“Our customers have found clarity in taking action. They don’t expect certainty, certainty can only be given when something has happened. Taking action in the sprint fashion is the spark that causes big good things to flourish.”
Jamie Hinton, CEO, Razor
Just because corporate strategies require in-depth consideration and planning doesn’t mean that sprinting is not possible. Any effective corporate strategy will have identified and quantified its assumptions. We know we expect segment A to develop more strongly than segment B over the next 5 years. We have a number of ‘if / then’ scenarios which have been planned for. So why not take these risks and turn them into opportunities?
There can be no greater opportunity in the current landscape than that which is provided by true innovation. By letting our best and brightest play with these ideas in a controlled environment, new avenues can be explored which may help create the edge needed to come out swinging against new threats. Because the best strategies are those which are being continually tested and improved upon.
In the next piece, I’ll take a closer look at how we can select fruitful strategic assumptions to attack and how we can facilitate a controlled environment that, leaning on the principles of the design sprint, can support the development of a strategic innovation culture that goes beyond just the implementation of new technology.