In most industries, the lowest cost player makes money selling large quantities of product or service at a low price with great discipline. The differentiated player makes money selling smaller quantities of product or service at a relatively high price fueled by value-creating innovation. Those in the middle lose.

This note provides a look at the five keys to BRAVE Innovation, a cross between the ideas in Peter Skarzynski and David Crosswhite’s The Innovator’s Field Guidewith my own BRAVE leadership framework.

Five Keys to BRAVE Innovation

  1. Environment/Where to play: Establish a shared definition of innovation for your organization.
  2. Values/What matters and why: Aim innovation at business concepts and models.
  3. Attitude/How to win: Valuable innovation is born of new, frame-breaking insights that light the way.
  4. Relationships/How to connect: Learn by doing with discipline across your innovation system.
  5. Behaviors/What impact: Drive an end-to-end process through to commercialization.

Environment/Where to play – Establish a shared definition of innovation for your organization

Begin with the challenge you face. Do you seek transformative, disruptive innovation, profitable incremental and sustaining innovation, to shift mindsets or to change the culture incrementally or substantially?

As Skarzynski explained to me, innovation used to be the CEO’s agenda. Now responsibility for innovation is diffused throughout the organization. Further,

Everyone wants to think they are working on one of the organization’s top four priorities.” So they define whatever they are doing as innovation whether they are inventing new products, new processes or “sweeping the floor”. “This is about getting everyone on the same page…to guide your work and keep you focused on the outcomes you seek.”


Values/What matters and why – Aim innovation at business concepts and models

Aim your efforts at business concepts and models and not just product improvements. There’s more value in strategic innovation across the entire value chain than in one-off efforts.

You can expand your innovation potential greatly by also including…your target customer…and…your value proposition to the distribution channel(s), how you create and capture value, and how you create and sustain advantage.


Attitude/How to win – Valuable innovation is born of new, frame-breaking insights

Innovation is born of new learning – new, frame-breaking insights that light the way for what follows. Look at jobs to be done, domains, and innovation architecture. All the while, moving from idea to business concept.

Don’t start with new ideas. Start with new insights, which help you develop new and different perspectives about your particular innovation challenge.

Five Insight Types:

  1. Customer insight
  2. Market discontinuities
  3. Competencies and strategic assets
  4. Industry orthodoxies
  5. Seeing and mapping white space.


Relationships/How to connect: Learn by doing with discipline across your innovation system

Instead of one and done, invest in disciplined, systematic innovation, leveraging open innovation as appropriate and frameworks as scaffolding. Build off your initial ideas by interacting with others, combining ideas and laddering up the benefits scale.

Develop specific product and service concepts within the context of a coherent, compelling, longer-term view of a market space you will pursue over time.


Behaviors/What impact: Drive an end-to-end process through to commercialization

One you’ve got the idea, stretch, elaborate and iterate. Experiment to de-risk, continually thinking about who, what and how is required to turn your insight into an idea successfully commercialized.

The work of innovation spans from gaining new insights to generating new ideas to engaging in business planning and strategic planning to conducting in-market experimentation and garnering continuous learning for constant improvement of in-market offerings.

Part I: Insights to Potential Actions

  • Develop new insights and perspectives
  • Create new insight-based ideas
  • Build benefit-based growth domains

Part II: Concept Elaboration and Experimentation

  • Stretch, elaborate, and iterate the opportunity (SEI)
  • Test, learn, and refine the opportunity through in-market experiments
  • In-market scaling

The Innovator’s Field Guide takes these ideas further, laying out how to propel fast innovation, experiment and de-risk, innovate while in market (where Skarzynski told me there is massive opportunity for value creation), organize for and lead innovation. This is powerful stuff.