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The Strategic Dimensions of Innovation: A Guide to Using the Innovation Radar Chart

Business innovation is about creating value, and its success is determined by customer acceptance, evidenced by their willingness to pay. Innovation requires a holistic approach, as a great product can fail if poorly branded or if it lacks a practical application. The "Innovation Radar," a strategic framework highlighted in research by MIT Sloan Management Review and leading companies like Motorola and Sony, highlights the importance of four key dimensions: the offerings developed, the customer segments targeted, the processes implemented, and the presence established to deliver these offerings to the market (Sawhney, 2006). This approach which leverages Innovation Radar Charts ensures that all aspects of business innovation are carefully considered to achieve success.

What is an “Innovation Radar Chart”?

An “Innovation Radar Chart” refers to a framework used to analyze and manage the various dimensions of innovation within a company or project. This tool is not universally standardized under this name, but generally, innovation radar charts are used to visualize and assess strengths and weaknesses across multiple aspects of innovation. The concept may vary between sources, but typically, a radar chart—also known as a spider chart—allows organizations to plot multiple variables that are critical to their innovation capabilities, providing a graphical representation of data. A typical innovation radar includes dimensions, including:

  • Offerings (What): Innovations in the products or services the company provides, including new features, functionality, and product lines.

  • Platform: Development of new platforms that enhance the capability to deliver services and products, creating a base for further innovation.

  • Solutions: Comprehensive solutions that integrate multiple products or services to meet complex customer needs more effectively.

  • Customers (Who): Identifying new customer segments, understanding existing ones better, and tailoring innovations to meet varied customer needs.

  • Customer Experience: Enhancing every touchpoint in the customer journey to improve satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement.

  • Value Capture: Innovative approaches to pricing, revenue models, and how the company captures economic value from its offerings.

  • Process (How): Improving or redesigning internal processes to increase efficiency, quality, and speed of delivery.

  • Organization: Changes and improvements in company structure, culture, and management systems to support innovation and adaptability.

  • Supply Chain: Enhancements in logistics, procurement, production, and distribution processes to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Presence (Where): Expanding or optimizing the geographical or digital presence to access new markets or improve service in existing ones.

  • Networking: Building and leveraging networks and partnerships with other organizations to enhance innovation capabilities and access new markets.

  • Brand: Developing the brand to better communicate the company's values and innovations, thereby enhancing its public perception and loyalty. (Sawhney, 2006)

Source: Sawhney, 2006

Leveraging an “Innovation Radar Chart”

Innovation radar charts are a versatile tool for assessing and visualizing the breadth and depth of innovation within an organization across multiple dimensions. Here's how you can effectively use innovation radar charts:

1. Define Innovation Dimensions

Start by identifying the key dimensions relevant to your business's innovation strategy. These dimensions could include product offerings, customer segments, processes, organizational structure, technology, market presence, and more, depending on your specific focus areas.

2. Assess Current Performance

For each dimension, evaluate your current performance. This can involve gathering data, feedback, and insights from various parts of the organization. You might score each dimension on a scale (e.g., 1 to 10) based on current capabilities and achievements in that area.

3. Set Targets

Define what success looks like in each dimension. These targets should be ambitious yet achievable, guiding your organization towards where you aim to be in the future. This step is crucial for aligning the innovation radar chart with your strategic goals.

4. Visualize with the Radar Chart

Use a radar (or spider) chart to plot the scores for each dimension. The center of the chart represents the lowest score, and the outer edge represents the highest score. This visualization helps you easily identify areas of strength and areas needing improvement.

Source: Sawhney, 2006

5. Analyze and Plan

With the chart plotted, analyze the visual distribution. Look for patterns or imbalances—areas where the innovation is strong and areas that are lagging. This analysis can help determine where to focus resources and efforts to achieve balanced and effective innovation across the board.

6. Integrate Feedback and Iterate

Innovation radar charts should not be static. Regular updates with new data and feedback will keep your assessments accurate and relevant. As your innovation initiatives progress, update the chart to reflect new realities, reassessing and adjusting your strategies as necessary.

7. Communicate and Collaborate

Use the radar chart as a communication tool. Present it to stakeholders and teams across the organization to share insights about your innovation landscape. This can foster a shared understanding and stimulate collaboration across departments.

8. Link to Strategic Actions

Finally, translate the insights from the radar chart into strategic actions. This involves detailed planning on how to boost capabilities in underperforming areas or leverage strengths in high-performing areas. Action plans can include specific projects, resource allocation, and timelines.

By following these steps, you can effectively use innovation radar charts to manage and accelerate innovation in your organization, ensuring a balanced approach that aligns with strategic goals and addresses market and operational realities.


The number of innovations an organization can feasibly work on at a time varies greatly depending on several factors including the size of the organization, its resources, the complexity of the innovations, and its overall strategic priorities. Here are some key considerations:

  • Resource Allocation: The most significant limiting factor is often the availability of resources, including money, time, and skilled personnel. An organization needs to evaluate how much it can invest in innovation without jeopardizing its ongoing operations.

  • Organizational Capacity: Larger organizations with more departments and teams might be able to handle multiple innovations simultaneously by distributing the workload across various groups. Smaller organizations might need to focus on fewer initiatives to maintain effectiveness.

  • Type of Innovation: The complexity and scale of the innovations also play a critical role. Incremental innovations, or small improvements to existing products, processes, or services, are generally less resource-intensive and can be pursued in greater numbers. Radical innovations, which involve creating completely new markets or significantly altering existing ones, require more focus and resources, limiting the number that can be managed at once.

  • Strategic Focus: Organizations also need to consider their strategic objectives. Spreading efforts too thin across many innovations can dilute focus and impact. It’s often more effective to prioritize a few key areas that align closely with the organization's strategic goals.

  • Risk Management: Innovation inherently involves risk. Managing multiple innovations increases complexity and the potential for overlapping risks. Organizations must have robust risk management processes in place to handle this effectively.

  • Adaptability: The ability to adapt to changing conditions and feedback is crucial. An organization that is more flexible can potentially juggle more projects, as it can quickly reallocate resources and adjust strategies as needed.

As a general rule, it’s wise for organizations to start with a manageable number of innovation projects to maintain quality and focus, and then scale up as they gain more experience, develop processes, and build capacity. The key is to strike a balance between spreading resources too thinly and concentrating too much on a few projects, potentially missing out on other valuable opportunities.

The main takeaway

To executive coaches and business leaders, embracing the "Innovation Radar Chart" is not only about adopting a new tool but about cultivating a transformative approach to business innovation. This strategic framework, validated by research from MIT Sloan Management Review and implemented by frontrunners like Motorola and Sony, enables a holistic view across multiple critical dimensions—from offerings and customer experiences to organizational processes and brand positioning. By employing this chart, you can ensure that every facet of innovation is aligned with your strategic objectives, efficiently utilizing resources while maximizing impact. It encourages not only the identification of new opportunities but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement and adaptive change, essential in today’s rapidly evolving market landscapes. This approach will guide your organization in making calculated moves towards substantial, value-driven growth, ensuring that innovation efforts resonate deeply with customer needs and market demands, thereby securing a competitive edge in your industry.


Sawhney, M., Wolcott, R., & Arroniz, I. (2006, April 1). The 12 Different Ways for Companies to Innovate. MIT Sloan Management Review.

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