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The Tale of the Innovation Compass: A Journey with the OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

Dr. David Alkajer


In the realm of innovation, the myth of the 'hero innovator' has long been debunked. In its place, a new narrative is emerging, one that embraces the concept of distributed heroism. This narrative is crucial for organizations aiming to navigate the complex and often uncertain landscape of innovation. For years, organizations have been like lone explorers, searching for the 'magic bullet' – a single, all-impactful innovation that could solve every challenge. This quest, much like seeking a mythical creature in the forest, often leads to more questions than answers. The reality is that innovation requires a multitude of approaches, a diversity of paths to be explored and understood.

The OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool is at the forefront of this change, guiding organizations through the nuanced world of innovation portfolio management. This tool invites organizations manage not one but many paths of innovation. It's like having a map that shows various trails – some leading to quick wins, others to long-term systemic changes, and yet others to unexplored territories. This approach recognizes that like the diverse ecology of a forest, innovation thrives on variety and distributed efforts. It's about connecting each project, initiative, or program to the broader landscape of the organization's goals and strategies. This sense-making activity is crucial in framing problems, guiding operations, and fostering continuous learning. It ensures that resources and support are directed towards meaningful and diverse innovation efforts.

OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool

The OPSI team, in its quest to democratize the access to this realm of innovation, has been researching and developing tools that enable a more distributed approach to portfolio management. Recognizing the vast demand and need for such exploration, they are creating virtual, self-service tools for organizations to analyze and understand their own innovation portfolios. It's like providing every organization with its own compass and map to navigate the realm of innovation.

Understanding the Framework

Once in the land of Governia, a realm known for its dedication to serving its citizens, a challenge arose. Governia's leaders realized that to navigate the ever-changing seas of public needs and global trends, they needed more than just traditional methods. They needed a compass for innovation, a guide to explore uncharted waters of progress and creativity. This is where the OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool, a magical compass of sorts, came into play.

The Compass and Its Dual Lenses

The leaders of Governia discovered this tool, much like a dual-lens compass, each lens offering a unique perspective. The first lens provided a quick, panoramic view of their kingdom's capability for innovation - a glance over their vast land to understand the contours of creativity and efficiency. The second, more intricate lens, delved into the details, mapping out how each project and endeavor aligned with specific types of innovation.

Four Lands of Innovation

As they ventured forth, guided by this compass, they encountered four mystical lands, each symbolizing a facet of innovation:

Land of Enhancement-Oriented Innovation: Here, everything was designed to work better and more efficiently, like windmills turning more swiftly to grind grain faster. This land focused on upgrading and refining what already existed, ensuring the kingdom ran like a well-oiled machine.

OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool

Isle of Mission-Oriented Innovation: Governia's leaders were guided to a beacon shining brightly over this isle. Here, every path and structure was built towards achieving a grand, overarching mission. It was about setting a clear, ambitious goal – akin to discovering a new continent.

OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool

Forest of Adaptive Innovation: This forest was ever-changing, with paths that shifted and trees that whispered new strategies with the wind. It symbolized the need to be flexible, to test and try new approaches in response to the ever-changing environment of Governia.

OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool

Valley of Anticipatory Innovation: Shrouded in mists of mystery, this valley was where the future was contemplated. It was about exploring emergent issues, preparing for what lies ahead, unseen and unknown, much like charting the stars for future voyages.

OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool

Setting Sail with the Tool

As you begin, the tool, divided into two essential modules, is like a dual-lens telescope. The first lens offers a quick snapshot – a bird's eye view of your organization's current innovation landscape. It's akin to scanning the horizon for landmarks. The second lens delves deeper, like a detailed sea chart, aligning your projects with specific innovation types. This 30-45 minute exploration is the start of a transformational journey​.

The Voyage of a Diverse Fleet

Understanding the need for a diverse approach, Governia's leaders used the compass to build a fleet of innovation, each vessel designed for different purposes – some swift for rapid changes, others sturdy for long-term missions, and some exploratory for new ideas. This fleet, much like a portfolio of diverse projects, ensured that Governia was prepared for various scenarios, spreading the risk and increasing the chance of success in their journey of governance and service.

The OECD's Portfolio Exploration Tool delineates innovation into four distinct facets, each with its own set of characteristics and purposes. By meticulously locating your innovation portfolio on these axes, organizations are better positioned to navigate the complexities of innovation management, ensuring that they are well-equipped to respond to both present and future challenges and opportunities. Here’s an elaborate explanation of each facet based on the model:

1. Enhancement-Oriented Innovation:

  • This facet of innovation is geared towards upgrading existing practices to achieve better results, efficiencies, and building on existing structures.

  • It operates under relatively certain conditions and is usually directed or top-down in nature.

  • Example: Implementing a new software tool to streamline workflow processes within an existing system.

2. Mission-Oriented Innovation:

  • Mission-oriented innovation is characterized by a clear outcome or overarching objective aimed at achieving a specific mission.

  • It's generally directed or top-down, driven by a defined goal that guides the innovation process.

  • Example: A public health initiative aimed at reducing smoking rates within a community.

3. Adaptive Innovation:

  • Adaptive innovation is about testing and trying new approaches to respond to changes in the operating environment.

  • It operates under a level of uncertainty and is usually undirected or bottom-up, allowing for flexibility and responsiveness to emerging challenges or opportunities.

  • Example: Adapting service delivery models in response to changing consumer preferences or external disruptions like a pandemic.

4. Anticipatory Innovation:

  • This facet involves exploring and engaging with emergent issues that might shape future priorities and commitments.

  • It operates under high uncertainty and is usually undirected or bottom-up, enabling organizations to proactively address potential future challenges.

  • Example: Investing in research and development to explore new technological advancements that could impact an industry.

Who Shoud Use the OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool?

  1. Public Sector Leaders and Managers: Senior officials, department heads, and managers who are responsible for strategic planning, policy development, and implementation can use the tool to gain insights into their organization's innovation capabilities and align their strategies accordingly.

  2. Innovation Teams and Units: Specialized teams or units within public sector organizations that focus on innovation, research and development, or process improvement will find this tool valuable for assessing and enhancing their innovation strategies.

  3. Policy Makers and Advisors: Those involved in crafting public policies, including advisors and consultants, can use the tool to understand various innovation dynamics and how they can be integrated into policy design and execution.

  4. Human Resources and Organizational Development Professionals: HR and organizational development experts can utilize the tool to identify areas where training and development programs can enhance innovation capabilities within the organization.

  5. Project Managers and Team Leaders: Those who lead specific projects or teams within public sector organizations can use the tool to assess how their projects align with the broader innovation strategy and objectives of their organization.

  6. Collaborative Networks and Partnerships: Entities involved in cross-sector partnerships or networks, including non-governmental organizations and private sector partners collaborating with public sector organizations, can use the tool to align their joint efforts with public sector innovation strategies.

  7. Academics and Researchers: Those in academic and research institutions studying public sector innovation can use the tool for analytical and research purposes, gaining insights into how public organizations manage and implement innovation.

Why Use the OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool?

  1. Comprehensive Understanding of Innovation Capabilities: The tool provides a detailed assessment of your organization's innovation tendencies and strategies. It helps identify what types of innovative activities your organization is currently set up to support or may be hindered by.

  2. Balancing Innovation Strategies: By understanding the four facets of innovation (Enhancement-oriented, Mission-oriented, Adaptive, and Anticipatory), you can ensure a balanced approach to innovation that aligns with your organization's goals and the changing external environment.

  3. Risk Mitigation: A portfolio approach to innovation helps spread risk. By engaging in various types of innovative activities, the risk of relying on a single strategy or approach is reduced, which is particularly crucial in uncertain or rapidly changing circumstances.

  4. Strategic Alignment and Goal Setting: The tool helps align innovation activities with your organization's overall strategy and mission, ensuring that innovation efforts contribute to broader organizational objectives.

  5. Identifying Gaps and Opportunities: The assessment can reveal areas where your organization may be lacking in terms of innovation and where there are opportunities for growth and improvement.

Implementing the Results

  1. Develop a Balanced Innovation Portfolio: Based on the assessment results, create a portfolio that includes a mix of the four facets of innovation. Ensure that your innovation activities are not overly concentrated in one area but rather spread across enhancement, mission, adaptive, and anticipatory innovations.

  2. Strategic Planning and Resource Allocation: Use the insights from the tool to inform your strategic planning process. Allocate resources (such as funding, personnel, and time) to support a diversified set of innovation initiatives.

  3. Address Identified Gaps: If the assessment reveals gaps in certain areas of innovation, develop strategies to strengthen these areas. This might involve training programs, hiring new talent, or forming partnerships to enhance capabilities.

  4. Foster a Culture of Innovation: Encourage a culture that values and supports all facets of innovation. This includes promoting a mindset open to change and experimentation and providing a safe environment for trial and error.

  5. Review and Adjust Regularly: Innovation is not a one-time effort but a continuous process. Regularly review your innovation portfolio to ensure it remains aligned with your organization's evolving goals and the external environment.

  6. Share and Collaborate: Share the findings with relevant stakeholders within your organization to foster a shared understanding of your innovation landscape. Collaboration can lead to new insights and more effective implementation of innovation strategies.

Conclusion: The Compass in Every Hand

The OPSI Portfolio Exploration Tool became more than a tool; it transformed into a compass in the hands of every leader and citizen in Governia, guiding them through the realms of innovation. It allowed them to explore, adapt, and anticipate, ensuring that Governia thrived as a kingdom committed to progress, creativity, and the well-being of its people.

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