Managing your innovation portfolio

Spotlight on innovation for the 21st century

​People throughout your organization are energetically pursuing the new. But does all that activity add up to a strategy?

Manage for total innovation

In this Harvard Business Review lead feature article, Geoff Tuff and Bansi Nagji (formerly) of Monitor Deloitte make the compelling argument that organizations require a balanced innovation portfolio and should manage for "total innovation." The companies we’ve found to have the strongest innovation track records can articulate a clear innovation ambition, the authors write. These companies have struck the ideal balance of core, adjacent, and transformational initiatives across the enterprise, and have put in place the tools and capabilities to manage those various initiatives as parts of an integrated whole.

In the article, the authors report findings from a study in which they examined companies in the industrial, technology, and consumer goods sectors, and correlated the pattern of companies' innovation investments with their share price performance. A striking pattern emerged: Outperforming firms typically allocate about 70 percent of their innovation resources to core offerings, 20 percent to adjacent efforts, and 10 percent to transformational initiatives. In contrast, cumulative returns on innovation investments tend to follow an inverse ratio, with 70 percent coming from the transformational initiatives, 20 percent from adjacent, and 10 percent from core.

The ideal balance, they write, differs from industry to industry and company to company, but one thing is constant: Companies should consider executing at all three levels of ambition and managing their innovation system deliberately.

To help achieve total innovation, the authors articulate five core management areas to focus on: talent, integration, funding, pipeline management, and metrics.

For many companies, innovation will remain a sprawling collection of activities, energetic but uncoordinated. And for many managers, it will remain a source of frustration the authors write. For the leading managers, however, it represents an exciting and important challenge. By figuring out how to manage innovation as an integrated system within overall portfolio goals, they can harness its energy and make it a reliable driver of growth.

As used in this document, "Monitor Deloitte" means the Strategy practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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