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Beyond Actions: Focusing on Outcomes to Drive Corporate Innovation Success

Ilkka Auer

Co-founder, CEO

April 21, 2023

In our previous blog posts, we've delved into the intricacies of innovation management, touching upon topics like customer-centric innovation strategies and best practices in B2B innovation. As we continue to explore the world of corporate innovation, we recognize that a crucial mindset change can make all the difference in driving impactful innovation: shifting the focus from actions to outcomes.

Picture this: Company X has invested heavily in numerous innovation initiatives, ranging from setting up an innovation lab to partnering with external startups. While these activities look impressive on paper, the company struggles to see any tangible business results from its efforts. Does this scenario sound familiar? Unfortunately, it's all too common, as organizations get caught up in the whirlwind of innovation trends without paying adequate attention to the outcomes they generate.

The persistence of this issue has led to increasing scrutiny and demand for evidence of innovation success. A growing number of business leaders are looking for clear, quantifiable results that demonstrate the value of their innovation investments. In this blog post, we'll examine why it's vital to prioritize outcomes over actions and how this mindset shift can unlock the true potential of your innovation efforts. We'll also share insights and recommendations to help you navigate the complex innovation landscape successfully. So, let's dive in and uncover the secrets to transforming your innovation strategy into a results-driven powerhouse!

Understanding Inputs, Outputs, Actions, Outcomes, and Impact

Before we delve deeper into the topic of driving corporate innovation success by focusing on outcomes, it's essential that we establish a clear understanding of some key terms. These terms – inputs, outputs, actions, outcomes, and impact – play a significant role in creating value and fostering growth within organizations.

In this subsection, we'll explain these terms and demonstrate their interconnectedness. This foundation will allow us to better understand and discuss the importance of shifting our focus from actions to outcomes in the pursuit of innovation success.


Inputs refer to the resources used in a project or process, including financial resources, human resources, time, materials, and technology. In the context of corporate innovation, inputs could be the budget allocated for R&D, the team assigned to work on a project, the tools and software they use, or the time spent on ideation and brainstorming.


Actions are the specific tasks or activities undertaken by individuals or teams to achieve the desired results. In innovation projects, actions might involve conducting market research, developing prototypes, testing ideas, refining concepts, or implementing new processes. Actions are the steps taken to transform inputs into outputs.


Outputs are the tangible and intangible products or results generated by the actions taken during a project. In innovation projects, outputs could include new products or services, improved processes, patents, or prototypes. Outputs are measurable and can be assessed for their effectiveness in achieving the desired outcomes.


Outcomes represent the broader, long-term impact that the outputs have on the organization, its customers, or the market. They are the end results or consequences of the innovation process. Outcomes are typically more difficult to measure than outputs, as they involve evaluating the overall value, effectiveness, and sustainability of the innovation project. Examples of outcomes could include increased market share, enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced costs, or improved brand reputation.


Impact refers to the long-lasting and far-reaching effects or consequences of a project or initiative on the environment, society, or economy. Impacts are the broader results of the outcomes, and they often take into account the project's externalities, positive or negative. In the context of corporate innovation, the impact might include creating sustainable solutions, reducing carbon emissions, or generating employment opportunities.


  • Inputs are the resources used in a project or process.
  • Actions transform inputs into outputs through specific tasks or activities.
  • Outputs are the tangible and intangible results generated by the actions.
  • Outcomes represent the broader, long-term impacts of the outputs on the organization and its stakeholders.
  • Impact refers to the far-reaching effects of the project or initiative on the environment, society, or economy.

Understanding the distinctions and relationships between inputs, actions, outputs, outcomes, and impact is essential for driving business success. It helps organizations to focus on the right metrics, allocate resources more effectively, and ultimately create meaningful and sustainable value for all stakeholders. By concentrating on outcomes and impact rather than just actions and outputs, companies can better align their innovation efforts with strategic goals and ensure that their projects contribute to long-term growth and competitiveness.

Next, we'll take a closer look at the key trends that have been shaping the landscape of corporate innovation.

Key Trends in Corporate Innovation

Centralized to Decentralized Innovation

Innovation has oscillated between centralized and decentralized models over time, as organizations search for the most effective approach to achieve desired outcomes. While centralized R&D departments were once the norm, many companies have moved towards empowering employees across all levels and functions to contribute ideas and drive change. Of course, the ideal level of centralization depends on the organization, and finding the right balance is key. Google's famous "20% time" policy is a notable example of decentralized innovation, allowing employees to dedicate a portion of their time to passion projects, resulting in successful products like Gmail and Google Maps.

Open Innovation

Open innovation has gained traction as companies recognize the benefits of collaborating with external partners, such as startups, universities, and even competitors. This approach enables organizations to tap into a broader pool of ideas, skills, and resources. Take Procter & Gamble's "Connect+Develop" program, for instance, which invites external innovators to submit ideas and partner with the company on product development.

Innovation Labs, Incubators, and Accelerators

Many organizations have established in-house innovation labs, incubators, or accelerators as a means to foster new ideas and experiment with emerging technologies. These spaces often act as a sandbox for employees to test and iterate on novel concepts, while accelerators provide structured programs to support startups and promote innovation. For example, Coca-Cola's "Bridge" program supports and mentors startups, driving innovation within the company by leveraging the disruptive potential of these new businesses.


Hackathons have become a popular tool for organizations to foster innovation and problem-solving in a short period of time. These events bring together cross-functional teams to collaborate, brainstorm, and develop innovative solutions to specific challenges. Companies like Facebook and Microsoft have used hackathons to generate ideas and encourage a culture of innovation within their organizations.

Corporate Venture Capital (CVC)

CVC has emerged as a popular approach to fuel innovation and stay ahead of industry trends. By investing in promising startups, companies can access cutting-edge technologies and business models, while also generating financial returns. A prominent example is Intel Capital, which has invested in more than 1,500 companies since 1991, helping to shape the tech industry's landscape.

Focus on Digital Transformation

As digital technologies continue to disrupt traditional industries, companies are increasingly prioritizing digital transformation to remain competitive. This trend has led to the adoption of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and the Internet of Things. For instance, GE's "Predix" platform enables industrial companies to leverage data and analytics to optimize operations and unlock new revenue streams.

However, despite these success stories and impressive advancements, the reality can be much more challenging. A staggering 80% of digital transformation initiatives fail, often due to a lack of alignment and understanding among leaders on how to effectively execute a digital transformation strategy. Managing and developing digital products and services requires a different approach compared to traditional physical businesses, and many organizations embark on this journey unprepared for the unique challenges they may encounter.

Emphasis on Customer-Centric Innovation

Organizations are placing greater importance on understanding and addressing customer needs to drive innovation. This shift has resulted in a surge of design thinking methodologies and tools aimed at uncovering customer insights. LEGO's "LEGO Ideas" platform is a prime example, as it invites customers to submit and vote on new product ideas, fostering a strong connection between the company and its fan base.

Agile and Lean Methodologies

Companies have increasingly adopted agile and lean methodologies to streamline innovation processes and respond quickly to changing market conditions. These approaches emphasize rapid iteration, continuous improvement, and close collaboration among cross-functional teams. Spotify's "squads" and "tribes" model embodies this trend, as it promotes autonomy and agility in product development.

Sustainability and Social Impact

As society becomes more conscious of environmental and social issues, companies are embracing sustainability and social impact as integral parts of their innovation strategies. Unilever's "Sustainable Living Plan" demonstrates this commitment, as the company aims to reduce its environmental footprint and improve the well-being of millions of people through its products and operations.

The Challenge of Replicating Innovation Trends

As companies observe the success of innovative organizations like Google, Spotify, or Unilever, they often feel inspired to follow in their footsteps, replicating the innovation trends that seem to drive these companies' successes. However, this approach may not always lead to the desired results. The challenge of replicating innovation trends lies in understanding that each company's circumstances, culture, resources, and market position are unique.

Simply copying an innovation trend without considering how it fits within the specific context of your organization can result in wasted resources, frustration, and failure to achieve meaningful outcomes. Moreover, the mere act of replication doesn't always take into account the underlying factors that contribute to the success of these trendsetting organizations. Factors such as strong leadership, a supportive culture, and efficient processes play a crucial role in the effective implementation of innovative initiatives.

It is easy to get inspired by the results achieved by companies like Google, Spotify, or Unilever and attempt to replicate their activities, expecting similar outcomes.

In the next chapter, we will explore the reasons why organizations fail in replicating innovation trends and the common pitfalls that prevent them from achieving success. By understanding these challenges, companies can better navigate the complexities of the innovation landscape and move beyond the replication of trends, focusing instead on creating value through purposeful, outcome-driven innovation initiatives.

The true key to unlocking the potential of innovation lies in shifting the focus from actions to outcomes, ensuring that initiatives taken are purposeful and geared towards generating tangible business results. The success of these examples isn't solely due to the activities themselves, but rather a combination of factors, including an organization's culture, processes, and mindset.

Why don't these activities deliver the results expected?

In this section, we will discuss the reasons behind the failure of organizations in replicating innovation trends and the common pitfalls they encounter. By understanding these challenges, companies can better navigate the complexities of the innovation landscape and move beyond the replication of trends, focusing instead on creating value through purposeful, outcome-driven innovation initiatives.

Lack of Contextual Fit

One of the primary reasons organizations fail to replicate innovation trends successfully is the lack of consideration for their specific context. Each company has unique circumstances, goals, and resources, which should be taken into account when implementing innovation initiatives. Simply copying a trend without assessing its relevance and fit within your organization can lead to suboptimal results.

Insufficient Leadership Support

Successful innovation requires strong leadership support and commitment to drive change and encourage experimentation. Without this support, innovation initiatives may struggle to gain traction, face resistance from stakeholders, and eventually falter.

Inadequate Organizational Culture

An organization's culture plays a significant role in the success of innovation efforts. Companies that lack a culture of openness, collaboration, and experimentation often struggle to adapt to new trends and implement them effectively.

Misalignment with Core Business Strategy

When innovation efforts are not aligned with an organization's core business strategy, they may fail to contribute to the overall strategic objectives. This misalignment can result in wasted resources, frustration, and a lack of meaningful outcomes.

Focus on Activities Rather Than Outcomes

Many organizations fall into the trap of prioritizing innovation activities over the desired outcomes. By concentrating on the process instead of the results, companies may lose sight of their ultimate goals and the value generated by their innovation efforts.

By understanding these common pitfalls and the reasons why organizations fail in replicating innovation trends, companies can learn from these mistakes and develop a more purposeful, outcome-driven approach to innovation. In the next section, we will outline recommendations and best practices for overcoming these challenges and ensuring that innovation efforts drive meaningful business impact.

Moving Beyond Trends: Focusing on Outcomes for Sustainable Innovation Success

To truly unlock the potential of innovation and drive meaningful business impact, organizations must address the challenges and pitfalls associated with replicating innovation trends. By shifting the focus from actions to outcomes, companies can avoid common mistakes and ensure that their innovation initiatives are purposeful and geared towards generating tangible results.

1. Align innovation efforts with business strategy

Ensure that your innovation initiatives are directly linked to your organization's core business strategy. This alignment will help prioritize innovation efforts, streamline resources, and maximize the potential for achieving meaningful outcomes.

2. Establish clear objectives and KPIs

Set explicit objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) for each innovation project to measure progress and success. This approach helps maintain focus on the desired outcomes and the value generated by innovation efforts.

3. Leverage data-driven insights for decision-making

Utilizing data-driven insights can help organizations make informed decisions about their innovation initiatives. By monitoring the performance of your innovation projects and analyzing their impact on your business, you can identify areas for improvement, optimize resource allocation, and ensure that your innovation efforts are focused on generating tangible results. Scale platform can help you to measure performance on both team and portfolio levels. Learn from successes and failures, and use these insights to optimize your innovation strategy and drive continuous improvement.

4. Engage stakeholders and communicate progress

Effective communication and stakeholder engagement are essential for successful innovation. Regularly update stakeholders on the progress of innovation projects, share success stories, and demonstrate the value generated by your innovation efforts. By fostering a transparent and collaborative environment, you'll gain buy-in from key decision-makers and ensure that your innovation initiatives are well-supported.

5. Share and celebrate innovation successes

Sharing and celebrating innovation successes is crucial for reinforcing a culture of innovation and maintaining momentum. Highlight the positive outcomes generated by your innovation efforts, acknowledge the contributions of individuals and teams, and use these successes to inspire further innovation across the organization.

6. Establish a strong innovation governance structure

A robust governance structure is essential for managing innovation initiatives and ensuring their alignment with business objectives. However, this is not something to get started with. Otherwise, you might just kill the momentum with unnecessary layers of management too early. Test first how your approach is working with your first initiatives. When you start seeing results, governance will help you to take your systematic approach to the next level. Implement a clear decision-making process, assign accountability for innovation outcomes, and establish a cross-functional team responsible for overseeing the innovation portfolio. This approach will help your organization maintain focus on outcomes and effectively manage innovation initiatives.

By addressing these challenges and putting the focus on outcomes, organizations can unlock the full potential of their innovation efforts, driving meaningful business impact and staying ahead of the competition. Remember, the secret to successful innovation lies not only in the activities themselves but in the ability to translate these efforts into tangible results.

How Scale Supports Organizations in Shifting Focus to Outcomes and Achieving Sustainable Innovation Success

As we have seen throughout this blog post, the key to driving sustainable innovation success lies in shifting the focus from activities to outcomes. At Scale, we understand the challenges organizations face when trying to navigate the complex landscape of corporate innovation. Scale platform supports organizations in their journey towards sustainable innovation success by ensuring that their innovation efforts are aligned with their core business strategy.

We achieve this by providing tools that enhance visibility and transparency into the innovation process. This allows stakeholders to have a clear understanding of each initiative's status, goals, and expected outcomes, enabling companies to prioritize initiatives that are most likely to yield meaningful outcomes and contribute to the overall strategic objectives.

At Scale Company, we have developed a solution that makes innovation management significantly more predictable.

Our solution allows organisations to start measuring progress and tracking the success of their innovation efforts in a more effective way.

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