Strategic Direction for Innovation Ecosystems

Innovation requires an open, respectful, and agile framework in order to leverage the combined wisdom and experience of the team. Innovation represents the novel application of an idea, product, or service in a way that acquires additional value for the customer and exceeds the goals and capacities of the status quo.

Realizing innovation requires different skills than the management and leadership approaches. Although the management approach is useful for sustaining operations, and the leadership approach is useful for building capacity within existing operations, another approach is needed to strategically pursue new ideas, products, and services in novel areas. An example of an innovation ecosystem is represented in the image below.

Innovation Ecosystem Network

Leveraging ideas that are new to your company requires new strategies, processes, roles, structures, resources, expertise, and values. Job descriptions, corporate structures, policies, procedures, or cultures that conflict with these three qualities (open, respectful, and agile) should be revaluated if your corporation is pursuing growth, acquisitions, mergers, or is facing diminishing market shares. Change is also required as risks increase, if your company is threatened by a hostile takeover, or when seeking to rival existing competitors in the same market.

Although the development of an innovative product is often touted to be the ultimate pursuit of a business (particularly in the tech industry) any area that can add value to an existing product or service can be innovative. For example, the innovation of the value chain adds value to existing commodities (or services) in industries that remain largely stable. The value chain includes all functional areas that contribute to your company’s operations. This includes human resources, transportation, logistics, technology, procurement, marketing & sales, infrastructure, procurement, services, etc.

Developing a corporate culture that supports ongoing innovation is well worth the effort. Supporting innovation requires the involvement, investment, and oversight of the executive team. Without this support the innovation framework will be poorly executed; focus will fragment, conflict will increase, and the values (potentially) realized will contain less potential.

Agility and vision must be created and lived at every level of the company. The hierarchy of the past, (which controls information, vision, and strategy from at the top) represents an ill-suited foundation for achieving the future competitive advantages of the integrated supply chain.

The company that pursues the additive values and revenues of the pure competencies must strategically and purposefully remove the barriers created by outdated management models. These barriers represent culture, personnel, technology, history & tradition, as well as many factors pertaining to the company’s environment. These archetypal competencies require new nutrients, often sourced from the environment, to mitigate the degrading influence of existing internal barriers.

The models represent supply chain that identifies the key business drivers, integrates the necessary processes, functions, resources, and strategies necessary to turn the supply chain into a series of competitive advantages. Aligned by a thorough assessment of the industry and marketplace the supply chain delivers products and services that provide values that are considered desirable to the customer(s).

The following questions represent opportunities for corporations to further explore, engage, and investigate their future:

Innovation: 1) What are the future values of the company’s industry? 2) What products or services will realize these future values? 3) Is the company aligned with these future values? 4) Does the company have the existing competencies to align with this future?

Innovation Ecosystem Competencies & Questions

Premium Players: 1) How does our current offerings compare with the premium values currently marketed and available in the company’s industry? 2) What competencies are needed to produce these premium values? 3) Does the company have these premium competencies? 4) Can the company acquire these premium competencies? 5) What is the present cost, and risks, of pursuing these future competencies to the present competitiveness of the company?

Customizers: 1) What values do the company’s customer’s desire? 2) How does the company’s current offerings compare to the unrealized values desired by the customer? 3) What values are achievable within the short versus the long term? 4) What are the relative costs of pursuing these additional values? 5) Based on the preceding question, which values are prioritized as more valuable to the company present and future competitive advantage?

Green Companies: 1) What is the company actual versus perceived environmental footprint? 2) What green values are demanded by the customer?

Aggregators: 1) What other products or services offerings are related to the company’s current offerings? 2) What other offerings are concurrently being used by the company’s customers? 3) What additional sourcing strategies are needed for the company to provide these products and services in the near future? 4) What are the additive costs (versus benefits) to the company of not pursuing these additional values? 5) Based on the preceding question, how do the company’s choices impact the future competitive advantages of the company?

Value Players:  1) How are the company’s existing (versus future) customers using the company’s product and service offerings? 2) Are each of these uses intended by the company? 3) Which of these uses represent the greatest “additional” values to the customer? 4) How would the company’s marketing of these additional uses, or values, impact the company’s future revenue, customer base, and market position? 5) Based on the previous question, which additional values should be prioritized by the company?


The archetypal models of the innovators, premium players, customizers, green companies, aggregators, and value players represent a larger system’s competencies that leverage underlying competitive advantages in pursuit of industry leadership. Supply chain models represent the framework, or foundation, upon which corporations are supported to pursue additive values based on the integration of key KSA’s.

The synergy available to such corporations, when aligned by an advanced understanding of the future of their industry, creates the necessary capacity and competencies to envision and create the future while rivaling competitors in the present.  The result is neither accidental nor common; it is realized through deliberate, strategic, and purposeful actions.


Travis Barker, MPA GCPM

Innovate Vancouver

[email protected]



Doss, H. (2013, August 5). Five Strategic Reflections For Your Innovation Ecosystem. Retrieved from

Kauffeld, R., Mueller, C., & Michaels, A. (2013, February 20). Designing the Right Supply Chain. Retrieved from



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