How innovative is your company?

  • An Innovation Alignment Gap exists between many companies and service providers.

  • Assess your organization's innovation characteristics to uncover new opportunities.

  • Aligning your expectations with those of service providers can strengthen relationships.

In my years of building and managing an innovation practice, one of the things I’ve concluded is that innovation means different things to different companies. And while most organizations insist that their vendors and service providers be innovative, many fail to clarify exactly what they mean by that, leaving service providers wondering how to deliver on these expectations.

In these cases, organizations are often left with unmet expectations, and service providers with unsatisfied clients. As a result, the innovation alignment gap between a company and its service providers widens.

In order to solidify this alignment, it’s important to first have a good grasp of your organization’s innovation frame of reference, or archetype. By categorizing your organization in terms of its innovation posture, you can better understand and communicate your needs to a service provider. The result is a more effective and streamlined way to select appropriate vendor partners with whom your company is both philosophically and operationally aligned to conduct business.

Perform an innovation self-assessment

The Innovation Assessment Tool below can help you catalog and quantify your organization’s innovation characteristics. To score your company, choose a number from the range in the corresponding column for each characteristic, then sum up the results. Use a higher number in the range to indicate a higher intensity, and a lower number for a lower intensity within the definition.

 Assessing your company


Where does your organization stand?

After tallying the results of the assessment, use the total score to identify your organization’s Innovation Archetype. Does the archetype and its description accurately reflect your company’s culture and operating model?

Determining the company's innovation archetype

How to apply the results

Once you’ve identified your innovation archetype, you can use your profile to optimize and fine-tune relationships with your service providers. Consider the following:

  • If you are an Innovation Sideliner:

For you, no risk is the best risk. While innovation is not a core value for the Innovation Sideliner, it is possible for the business to become open to discussions around innovative solutions. However, if stability and operational consistency are your leading objectives, then the best path is to continue to choose established products based on their price and stability. Seek vendors who focus on offering you a well-proven product at a good price and with a proven support model. Be aware, however, that such vendors, without being innovative themselves, may not survive long in a highly competitive procurement-focused environment, and you may be forced to cycle them out for new ones every few years.

  • If you are an Innovation Tinkerer:

You likely have budding centers of innovation sprinkled throughout the organization, but you may not be sure how to leverage them. You can benefit from partnering with a service provider that has broad innovation experience and proven foresight that can help you leverage your own maturing innovation capabilities. Allow the provider to engage broadly throughout your organization. They are likely to find opportunities for innovation across multiple domains in your enterprise and uncover synergies that can have measurable business impact, albeit likely several quarters out.

  • If you are an Innovation Believer:

You know innovation is important but are still in transition, carefully weighing risk versus benefit. You have innovative thinkers on board, some in decision-making capacities. At the same time, your organization has many status-quo supporters who should be included in planning, since their buy-in on innovation programs can speed the process toward adoption. Innovation Believers should look for a service provider that can help identify where innovation makes sense and where it is not yet ready to be adopted. Find service providers that are savvy about your business, respect your political and organizational realities, and show finesse in driving an innovation agenda.

  • If you are an Innovation Evangelist:

You are passionate about your focus on innovation. Yours is an organization in motion, with one project delivering value while another is ramping up. You are engaged in projects that involve complex integration of solutions with far-reaching business impact. The Innovation Evangelist should look for a service provider that can offer creative solutions that not only stay in step with your innovation drive, but enhance and accelerate it. Any vendor that leads with a product or service, as opposed to a value-based solution, is not one you’ll likely want to engage with. Seek partners that demonstrate an understanding of your transformation agenda and can articulate how they will help you accelerate it.

  • If you are an Innovation Junkie:

Your company’s entire business model is about transformation, and your organization is ultra-agile. Typically companies like yours behave like start-ups or are in an aggressive growth mode. This means your needs change very rapidly. Innovation Junkies should look for service providers that have a proven track record of offering creative, consistently out-of-the-box solutions. Look for service providers that are a mirror reflection of your business – nimble, responsive, unburdened by formalities of process, and willing to partner with you in various areas of experimentation, including technical, marketing, and adoption. You will likely need to look beyond traditional, mainstream service providers to find one that can support your innovation archetype.

Innovation-powered performance

Knowing and understanding your organization’s innovation archetype can help you identify and articulate the level and type of service you expect from a service provider. The archetype doesn’t paint your business into using specific categories of technologies; it only guides how they are best applied.

For example, an Innovation Tinkerer may see opportunities to improve its inventory management by using an IoT smart choice solution like Cargo View, while an Evangelist may consider the same IoT technology to completely transform their workforce by implementing virtual workspaces through IoT-based intelligent building solutions. Virtually every innovation archetype can take advantage of emerging technologies and solutions to deliver new value to their customers. IoT, Network on Demand, and Cloud Services are some examples of technologies fueling innovation for companies and service providers.

Bringing the company’s expectations in line with the strengths of its service provider creates innovation alignment. It also delivers new efficiencies and creates a nucleus of an effective partner relationship with service providers.

For more information about innovation alignment or how AT&T can assist your organization with increasing the effectiveness of your innovation initiatives, email

In my next post, I’ll discuss what service providers can do to better align with clients in supporting their innovation agenda and activities.


Norbert Sluzewski Global Business Solutions Signature Client Group Strategic Advisory Services Director AT&T About Norbert