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Agile Innovation Master Plan

The Agile Innovation Master Plan: The CEO’s Guide to Innovation

by Langdon Morris, Director, InnovationLabs

This new book, a companion volume to Langdon’s previous book Permanent Innovation, is now available. Here is a summary of the overall approach and some of the key concepts.

overview of the agile innovation master plan framework

The Agile Innovation Master Plan: The CEO's Guide to Innovation

Progress in any field requires the development of a framework, a structure that organizes the accumulating knowledge, enables people to master it, and unifies the key discoveries into a set of principles that makes them understandable and actionable. Law, government, science, technology, business, medicine have all evolved such frameworks, and each field progresses as new insights emerge that enhance the depth and effectiveness of the principles, and which are then translated into improvements in practice.

Humanity’s understanding of innovation, however, hasn’t progressed as much as our understanding of law, to take just one from that list, because while the intuitively-driven practice of innovation is as old as our species (and by some accounts it’s much older than humanity, inasmuch as nature itself is the innovator extraordinaire), the pursuit of innovation as a systematic, manageable discipline has been practiced for only the last couple of hundred years; systematic research and development began in the chemical industry in the 1850s, a mere 160 years ago, so we’re still separating the myths or magic from the realities of methodology.

The ideal innovation framework, our goal here, should be useful to all types of organizations, large and small, public and private, and must necessarily address and organize a very broad range of issues, from the 30,000 foot perspective of innovation strategy to the inner secrets of creative thought, and everything in between.

We need to know how to create and manage a rigorous innovation process, and how to develop the innovation culture and bring forth the creative and innovative spirit from the people in our organization. And we also need tools.

And while these are complex topics, it’s best that the framework itself remains simple and accessible.

After exploring a great many options and issues, we’ve found that a powerful framework for thinking about innovation and for defining an Innovation Master Plan can come by asking five simple questions.

the agile innovation master plan framework: 5 key questions

We ask, “Why innovate?” and this quite simple question leads us to examine the strategic nature of innovation.  We know that innovation is a strategic necessity because the purpose of innovation is to assure that our organization survives, and the evidence shows overwhelmingly that any organization that doesn’t innovate probably won’t stay in business.  Hence, your innovation process must be aligned with your organization’s strategy, and innovation will be a key actor that defines how your strategy will be realized.  This is the subject of Chapter 1.

We ask, “What to innovate?” and we recognize that the unpredictable nature of change requires us to prepare many innovation options for a wide range of possible futures.  These options constitute an investment portfolio.  As with any portfolio, some projects will do well, while others will not.  In the case of the innovation portfolio, the disparity between success and failure will be very wide because this portfolio is created and managed as a tool for disciplined exploration, and it is necessarily geared toward higher risk in order to successfully meet the onrush of change.  Designing your portfolio is the topic of Chapter 3.

We ask, “How to innovate?” and we grasp that a rigorous innovation process is essential.  The process must be driven by strategic intent, the “why” of innovation, so in fact the innovation process itself begins with strategy, as noted above.  The second step is the “what” of innovation, the design of the ideal innovation portfolio.  And while many people tell us that “coming up with ideas” is where innovation begins, we see that to the contrary, ideation actually occurs in the middle, fifth step of the rigorous innovation process.  Read the details in Chapter 5.  (Chapter 6 then explores how to measure the effectiveness of the innovation process that was detailed in Chapter 5.)

When we think about “Who innovates?” we see that while everyone participates in a robust innovation culture, there are three distinct roles to be played in achieving broad and consistent innovation results.  These roles are Innovation Leaders, who set policies, expectations, goals, and the tone for the innovation culture; Innovation Geniuses, who come up with great ideas and insights; and Innovation Champions, who organize the pursuit of innovation and support those who develop great ideas and turn them into business value.  All three roles must be well played for innovation to flourish, and they must be aligned together in a system.  This is the subject of Chapter 7.

The “Where?” of innovation constitutes the tools and infrastructure that support the innovation process and the innovating people.  The four principal elements of this infrastructure are open innovation approaches that engage a broader community in the innovation process; the virtual infrastructure that supports effective remote communication and collaboration; the physical infrastructure, the work place where people engage together face to face; and the collaborative methods that bring forth the best ideas from all participants, inside and outside the organization, in the most efficient manner possible.  These are the subjects of Chapter 8.

Together these five key elements constitute the Innovation Master Plan.  This book explains the concepts, and also walks you through the key steps to begin applying the concepts to your organization.

And a last point before we continue is the sixth question, the one I didn’t mention: “When?”  But it’s really not worth a detailed discussion because you already know the answer:  if you understand that change is accelerating, and if you know how important it is to develop the innovation mindset and your innovation practice, then the “when” of innovation is obviously now.  The market, which ruthlessly demands innovation, and your competitors, who are relentlessly creating innovations of their own, wait for no one.  You’d better not wait either.



  1. why innovate: 
the link between strategy 
and innovation
  2. the driving forces of change
  3. what to innovate: 
the innovation portfolio
  4. how to innovate: 
the innovation process
  5. innovation metrics
  6. who innovates: 
the innovation culture
  7. the creative process
  8. where we innovate: 
the innovation infrastructure


annotated bibliography

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Greg Taragos January 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Wonderful website, research and insight

Gregg Taragos


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