Don’t Mistake Innovation For Strategy

Al Reis wrote an excellent article in Advertising Age that captures its thesis in the title: Innovation Should Be Seen as a Tactic, Not a Business Strategy. Here are a few excerpts:

What makes a powerful automobile brand today is not innovation, but a narrow focus on an attribute or a segment of the market…

Innovations outside of a brand’s core position can undermine a brand…

Most brands don’t need innovations; they need focus. They need to figure out what they stand for (or what they could stand for) and then what they need to sacrifice to get there.

My take: I applaud Reis for introducing restraint in a really hot topic area (Look at my posts Customer Experience Innovation: As Simple As 1-2-3 and Trend Watch #4: Business Week “Innovation Predictions 2008.”) Executives get so enamored with “innovation” that they lose sight of the fact that it’s just a tool, not the ultimate objective. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a very powerful tool, but it needs to be used to support the brand strategy. 

As I was thinking about where innovation can help the most, I thought about this Venn diagram that I used in a previous post


Innovation works best in the overlapping areas on the diagram!

The bottom line: Get more from innovation by obsessing less about it.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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