Strategy Innovation: Our Roots and The Early Days

photo courtesy of Gabriel Gurrola

photo courtesy of Gabriel Gurrola

Our Roots

Our consulting practice is built on a foundation of decades of scholarly work by innovation and strategy pioneers, and our relationship with them. Surprisingly, the origins of this research is not that long ago:

Sid Parnes’ partnership with Alex Osborn provided the first explicit process for creative problem-solving with “brainstorming” in the '50s. Around the same time, Bill Gordon and George Prince were conceiving “synectics”, using insights from their inventing sessions for clients of Arthur D. Little. In the '60s, Ted Levitt created a new worldview with his article in HBR, Marketing Myopia, where he introduced the idea of viewing products as “jobs to be done”. (A concept since advanced by Clayton Christensen and many others.) George T. Land is the seminal thinker behind Transformation Theory and the author of Grow or Die: The Unifying Principle of Transformation. Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School professor and co-author of The Progress Principle, collaborated with Stan Gryskiewicz, founder of the Association for Managers of Innovation and author of Positive Turbulence, on research that led to the KEYS® survey to assess the climate for creativity and innovation.


In the early days of our Strategy Innovation practice, 1984 to be exact, we were retained by the Dow Chemical Board to help them create a future opportunity landscape across all the Dow categories of business.  This initiative was led by John Donalds and, among many other opportunities, identified a possible technology to enable driverless cars.

The next 3 years we were retained by the senior leadership at Eli Lilly to apply our Strategy Innovation methodology to create future opportunity roadmaps for the businesses in Infectious Disease, Cardiovascular and Agricultural Products (Elanco). These businesses were then reorganized around their new growth pipeline and strategy.

In the mid-80s, the leadership at Pillsbury and, later, Procter & Gamble and Hewlett Packard, engaged us to apply one of our Strategy Innovation processes, a Thought Leader Panel, to create future opportunity maps on possible areas of new and disruptive growth: technology, sustainability, aging and pet care.  (A Thought Leader Panel process carefully selects global experts in well-defined areas of knowledge who then serve as provocateurs to challenge and advance the organization’s future assumptions, while identifying the most relevant future forces for growth.  The output is a proprietary perspective on the future for the company.)


In the '90s, 3M used Strategy Innovation to create new revenue streams: non-incremental to breakthrough called Pacing Plus (pipeline valued after 4 years by the CEO at $6 billion). IBM Research used Strategy Innovation to “double the value of IBM Research to IBM” through, among other things, a new model for technology licensing.  Carl Zeiss used Strategy Innovation to create and align on a global vision for growth and an enabling worldwide infra-structure.

In the late 90s, Strategy Innovation was ready for Prime Time. In 1999, INSEAD organized and hosted “the first seminal conference on Strategy Innovation". Many global scholars of strategy and innovation were gathered with corporate executives to discuss the expanding need for a methodology that would enable organizations to create and accelerate growth through a capability for Strategy Innovation. Later this same year, Gary Hamel and colleagues benchmarked our practice for Strategy Innovation at our San Francisco office in Ghirardelli square.


In 2003, AMACOM published The Power of Strategy Innovation by Bob Johnston and Doug Bate, Strategy Innovation Group, LLC  Associates (which they updated in 2013).  The book, in large part, shares these real case studies from the “Early Days” and forecasts the Future of Strategy Innovation.

Join us, email Marta Reis to become a charter member of our Strategy Innovation Network ( and stay tuned.