Bridging Silos: Aligning Innovators with Strategic Leaders

Two businessmen pulling a rope in opposite directions isolated on white background

By Dipika Mallya

While innovation is a strategic mandate for most organisations today, there is often a disconnect between teams tasked with innovation and other leadership and strategy units. This can be overcome by aligning the language, culture and frameworks that drive both disciplines, and creating opportunities for collaboration and peer support. IBM, Netflix and Amazon are examined as success stories.


An innovation paradox can often be seen in organisations today; while the pursuit of innovation is viewed as a strategic imperative, there is a lack of alignment between the teams tasked with driving innovation and other strategic units within the organisation. This could stem from the disconnect in the language, culture and frameworks used by innovation teams versus the C-suite and other strategic disciplines. As per the latest research by global consulting firm PwC, 54% of organisations struggle to align their innovation and corporate strategy goals.1

Let’s start with the fundamentals; language is generally accepted as the basis for understanding, collaboration and knowledge sharing. However, a recent study highlights stark differences in the phrases and key terminology used by innovation versus strategic leadership departments within an organisation.2 The language of innovation is generally more open-ended, focussing on exploration, co-creation and divergent thinking, whereas the language of strategy is more structured and target-oriented, focussing on mutually exclusive and completely exhaustive (MECE) expressions and phrases. It’s interesting to note how popular tools used within these disciplines reflect these differences, such as an innovation customer journey or design thinking versus a strategic matrix or competitive benchmark. The language of success differs significantly as well; there is a strong variance in the key performance indicators (KPIs) of innovation and strategic teams. The KPIs for innovation often focus more on initiation – projects launched, trainings completed, skills developed or discoveries made, whereas strategic KPIs focus on growth measured in terms of revenue, market share, awareness and other factors. Ultimately, this shifts the sense of purpose for both teams, with strategy teams focussing more on quantifiable wins and plausible futures, and innovation teams focussing on “moonshots” and potential disruption.

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About the Author

Dipika Mallya is an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Specialist at the Ministry of Education in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She is also the Founder of Ideation Labs, a non-profit initiative to build creative mindsets and capabilities at work. She holds a Master’s degree in Communication from The University of Texas at Austin, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her areas of interest include educational design, innovation policy and social entrepreneurship.


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