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Drips and Drops in Strategic Innovation

Strategic innovation is not immune to the same trends in consumption and use as we see in products and services. What does it mean when the way we approach our work is more curation than an event? Let’s look at how drips might be the new drops for strategic innovation.

I recently read an article by Ana Andjelic in her Sociology of Business newsletter that spoke about the change in patterns for how we buy, own, and use products and services. It struck me that there were many parallels between that and how we approach strategic innovation.

Andejelic outlines two sets of characteristics of what constitutes a drop, which is more of the traditional model, and the drip, which is a more emergent trend.

Drip is the New Drop

Drops are supply-based approaches that seek to create ‘events’ and time-bound releases that are far more tightly coupled with what a market demands.

A drop is a seemingly random release of a limited-number of products with a goal of creating perception of scarcity and urgency. Drops have proven to be a successful brand-building tool, as they reliably drive word-of-mouth, FOMO, create insta-communities and use wait lines as their advertising.

A drip is something that is curated, slow, and evolutionary in its approach. It’s also something that is more continuous, rather than focused on discrete times and dates.

A drip is a continuous stream of products, signals, content, incentives, rewards, tokens, points, interactions, events or access. Perennial newness gamifies the brand experience and makes it more individual and unique. The mechanism of drips is accumulation and collecting.

Drop to Drip Strategy

Andejelic points out that the drop has been the main way marketers draw attention to products, creating a sense of scarcity and sometimes drama in their products. I see the same sentiment in working with public sector organizations and strategy. Too often these organizations see their strategy as a big event, part of a time-bound process that ends up with a product (the plan). Yet, strategy is what we do every day. It’s not just the plan, it’s the execution. It’s also the evaluation, learning, refinement and extension of the plan into the world.

Strategic design is part of a process of development that may have more or less intensity in its phases, but it never stops. At least, not if innovation and growth as an organization is important. But that might be the real problem.

The temptation to box in strategy into some kind of project plan is one that many organizations fall into. It’s just something that has to be done; a box to be checked. Growth isn’t about our checked boxes, it’s a process. Our growth is tied to seeing ourselves as moving, living things not static things.

The choice to see strategy and the design that comes with it as a finite, static thing is what draws organizations into traps of their own making. It’s what happens when the 5-year plan gets outdated in year 2 and they continue with it because that’s the plan. That’s what GE did (among other things), what Kodak did, and what Blockbuster did. They don’t exist anymore in the form we remember them as.

Public sector organizations have some buffer, but that doesn’t make it any less important to be developmental in their thinking. As part of the public trust, I’d argue the responsibility to do this is even greater.

Drips, Design, Evaluation and Growth

The idea of a drip-led approach to strategic design is one based on collaboration, ongoing communication, and true engagement with those involved. This is the kind of strategy where everyone is involved in some way and every member of the organization has skin in the game. It’s an approach to strategy that works with complexity rather than against it. It’s adaptive and emergent.

It’s like trees, not furniture. It’s growth-oriented and dynamic, not static.

It’s also one that incorporates foresight rather than building a plan based on hindsight. It’s designed for humans, not plans. It is also naturally evaluative in nature because you cannot be demand-driven, continuous, and proactive without some form of feedback mechanism in place. That’s what evaluation brings.

So perhaps the next time you seek to drop a strategy into the world, you might want to hold on to the tap and make it drip instead.

If this is your plan of action for dealing with strategy and you need support, contact me. I’m here to help.

Photo by Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash and by Jason Leem on Unsplash

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