A few months ago, I shared the basic structure for upgrading an innovation pipeline strategy to a proper portfolio one. The key distinction being that innovation doesn't fit in a pipeline, as it's neither linear nor predictable past a certain level of uncertainty. And as uncertainty is the real fuel of innovation, investing in projects or partnerships beyond what could be just written in a business plan is not only necessary but simply vital to future-proofing any large company. Can you survive by just doing incremental innovation or going all in on a unique innovative big ban? Of course. It's called winning the lottery. But let's be honest; winning the lottery is not a strategy.
Quick recap on portfolio strategy
With this usual premise, one simple way to map out the different types of explorations you need to sustain in an innovation strategy is as such:
One axis is about technological risks, which translate into threats to defuse and opportunities to leverage. This axis asks the question, "What is the current forecast to get technology X up and running in a mainstream product in terms of years?" and the answers go from less than one year to more than five years (adjust accordingly depending on your market cycle, whether you're in B2B SaaS or pharmaceuticals).