[vc_row][vc_column][ultimate_heading main_heading=”HOW TO TURN YOUR STRATEGY INTO INNOVATION & CREATIVITY” alignment=”left” spacer=”line_only” spacer_position=”middle” line_height=”1″ line_color=”#f88379″ margin_design_tab_text=”” line_width=”200″ main_heading_margin=”margin-bottom:15px;” sub_heading_margin=”margin-bottom:25px;” spacer_margin=”margin-bottom:35px;”][/ultimate_heading][vc_column_text]Apple (and there are others) are often pointed to when it comes to delivering amazing innovation and products for their organisation, customers and shareholders. By all accounts Steve was a visionary and I am certainly not going to question that, however I sometimes wonder “What did he actually ask for?” or more importantly…

“How did what he ask for become the iPod?

What was Apple’s problem?

It’s hard to remember Apple back in 2001 but they were there, trying to grab what was left of the PC market like everyone else. If you haven’t seen it before, Steve summed up their business problem in his “Digital Hub” strategy launched in January the same year. It’s a great articulation of “what” their business problem was and “why” it is important but I still have the same question…

What did Steve’s strategy ask for?

In my last post I introduced the What-Why-How-Who-When model and talked about the importance of leaders developing their strategic plan in the right order and with the right people. Whilst each circle and their order is important, this post explores the potential of what happens when they intersect. These are the 5C’S that support turning your strategy into creativity and innovation.

What & Why = Cause

In their great article “What Doesn’t Motivate Creativity Can Kill It” Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer outline how goals encourage creativity. In particular they say:


“Creativity suffers when strategic goals are too loose, and when creators are too tightly constrained in how they accomplish those goals.”


Your strategy should focus on “what” organisational problems you need to solve and “why” they are important. Avoid constraining your team with the specifics of “what” you need them to deliver at this early stage and instead establish a cause that motivates your team to want to create. The “what” in Steve’s strategy wasn’t the iPod, it was flatlining PC sales and what it meant for the future of Apple…

Why & How = Creativity

When was the last time you asked your team “how” they can solve a problem or gave them free reign on ideas to deliver your strategy? Autonomy is incredibly important in establishing a freedom to create and innovate. Research not only supports this, it also shows that performance is significantly higher when teams have been part of defining their own “how”. In Apple’s case, their “how” was to get into audio and music but that still doesn’t explain how their strategy became the iPod.

How & Who = Competence

Now I’m not a mind reader but I bet some of you are thinking “I would love to give my team more autonomy but…I don’t have access to people like Steve did…my boss just expects me to deliver…I’m not sure I can trust my team. I get it…

The key to creativity and innovation is about understanding who you have in your team and matching right “how” with the right “who”. You need to understand the potential people have to deliver and give them the right projects to deliver to achieve this potential. This creates the competence your team needs to trust each other and with this comes a freedom to create and innovate.

If you don’t have the right “who” in your team go and find them, that’s what Steve did. He asked Jon Rubenstien (VP Hardware) and Stan Ng (Product Marketing) to head up the need for an Apple MP3 player. They brought in Tony Fadell and 6 weeks later the first iPod foam prototype was delivered.

That’s competence.

Who & When = Challenge

In her book “The Innovation Formula”, Dr Amantha Imber talks about challenge and the Goldilocks factor of creating challenge that is “just right”. She goes on to talk about how leaders give little consideration to appropriately and deliberately matching the challenge or task to the people involved. I find this fascinating especially when she goes on to say “Challenging work is one of the biggest differentiators between creative and non-creative project outcomes”.

I have seen the best strategies and projects fail because “when” it needed to be delivered by was unachievable. Don’t force your team to default to ordinary because you haven’t thought through what is the “just right” amount of challenge. It’s not about giving people more time, when they are passionate about what they are delivering they will define the right time for you.

When & What = Completion

This is the last “C” for a reason, it’s the final part of the circle and if all has gone well you have have solved “what” you needed to. All it takes is a well defined cause, an environment where you team feels empowered, who’s competence you trust, and who you know you can challenge in just the right way to achieve their potential.

The iPod was launched in November 2001, 9 months after the announcement of the Digital Hub strategy. It went on to sell over 400 million units and helped transform Apple into the company we know today.

My view is that Steve didn’t ask for anything, he just gave people a cause and created the team and environment that would give him the right answers. We should all do the same.

In my next post I will build on the 5C’s and explore how they support and motivate teams and individuals to innovate.

If you would like notifications about this or my other posts or are interested in talking about how this could help your organisation, please sign up for my fortnightly newsletter or contact me at julia@juliasteel.com.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]