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Casting a Lighthouse Ambition to Inspire Breakthrough Innovation
By Sam Evans, Senior Director
Though our clients range from large, multinational corporations to scrappy start-ups, and from consumer packaged goods to healthcare to finance and more, they all come to Egg seeking answers to the same underlying question: “How do we grow?” In service of addressing this question, many of our clients are focused on building an innovation pipeline, ideally one that both closes today’s performance gaps and helps capture future growth opportunities.
But building a strong and sustainable innovation pipeline is often harder than it seems. We frequently hear clients lament that their pipeline is either full of small, undifferentiated ideas, or that it’s unorganized and disjointed. These problems arise when teams first ground pipeline-building in today’s realities and constraints. It may make intuitive sense to start with today, asking questions like “How might we expand on what has made us successful to date?” and “How might we leverage our brand equities and assets to take our offering to the next level?”
But starting with today leads teams to adopt an incremental approach to innovation and sell themselves short. Applying today’s feasibility and viability constraints to tomorrow’s possibilities prompts teams to take a product-first approach and focus on selling what they can make rather than making what they should sell to build for the future. This lack of a unifying innovation vision often leads to “one-hit wonder” ideas rather than extendable platforms.
In short, incremental approaches to pipeline-building violate one simple truth: you can’t build for the future if you’re anchored in today.
At Egg Strategy, we partner with clients to establish what we call a “Lighthouse Ambition” – a bold stretch goal that directly ties to business and brand objectives and provides a pathway to take innovation from short-term and reactive to long-term and intentional. This future-back approach brings teams together to explore fundamental shifts in culture and the market that could open the brand to new growth vectors as well as examine risks that could impact the brand’s future relevance and growth.
We have guided many clients through this process of reimagining their business, sparking creative inspiration and heightening strategic focus, from guiding a food company’s stretch into Health & Wellness with a line of functional foods and supplements and a new channel growth strategy, helping a financial services firm reimagine the credit card experience to design a new breed of card that challenges category conventions and truly puts customers first, to partnering with an iconic beer brand to embody its legacy and inform its innovation trajectory with intention rather than by chasing trends.
So how do you elevate your team’s perspective in service of designing for breakthrough innovation and a clear path to growth? We have developed a three-step process to set a Lighthouse Ambition and chart a path forward to achieving it: Envision, Ground and Bridge.
Step 1. Envision: We start by analyzing key trends as well as existing customer and market knowledge to envision the future story of the category in the next 3-5+ years. We consider what cultural trends are evolving customers’ needs and how category trends will wax and wane to change the competitive landscape. Then we inspire clients to cast a potential future for the brand within that shifting competitive context by exploring the role the brand could play in customers’ lives, imagining what products and/or services it might provide as well as the category tension the brand might take on as its fight.
Step 2. Ground: Next, we examine the current state of the brand or business through the lens of the team’s aspiration. We explore customers’ current brand perceptions and identify any limiting beliefs that may hold the brand back from achieving its Lighthouse Ambition. On a tactical level, we also look at what capabilities and assets a brand might need to be successful (manufacturing, partnerships, etc.). Finally, we have a collaborative conversation around what else may need to change for the brand to reach its full potential.
Step 3. Bridge: Finally, we imagine the kinds of product/service platforms we will need to develop to bridge the gap between our clients’ inspiring vision and the realities of today. We consider what customers will give the brand permission to do today, and how to chart a path to stretch that permissibility over time. We take into account technical capability to understand what can be built today as well as the resource and capability constraints we need to acknowledge and invest in addressing. We also look at how we might need to evolve the brand’s business model and go-to-market strategy to help realize its future product vision.
By taking these steps, our clients are able to elevate their perspective, find fresh inspiration and focus idea generation and concept development in sometimes surprising and seemingly unconventional ways that stay firmly rooted in strategy. And while extremely applicable for new product and service innovation, this Lighthouse Ambition approach also helps leaders take a more holistic approach to stretching a brand. Just as customers perceive one brand across channels, the Lighthouse Ambition approach also helps shape the omnichannel brand experience by incorporating multiple levers to drive growth, from new offerings to brand communication and smart activation.
Building a Lighthouse Ambition is just one of many ways we at Egg Strategy are helping our clients inspire their true path forward.