How to explore for innovation on your organization's strategic frontier

J. Douglas Bate (Co‐founder of The Visterra Group ( is also co‐author, with Bob Johnston, of The Power of Strategy Innovation (American Management Association))

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Publication date: 5 January 2010



Corporate innovation efforts frequently suffer from a lack of strategic focus and alignment between innovation teams and senior executives. The identification of a corporate strategic frontier can align both groups on the scope and focus of their innovation efforts, greatly increasing the likelihood of a successful innovation initiative. This paper aims to investigate this issue.


The identification of potential strategic frontiers will emerge from the process of finding the company's strategic intent. The paper aims to carry out this process by first identifying the organization's “passionate core,” which is the defining nature of the company that provides its energy and drives its success.


The paper finds that in a creative process, a team considers what could take place at the intersection of the passionate core and the future changes. What new opportunities are suggested? How can the organization get to the future first? What changes are required?

Practical implications

The paper describes a process to help innovation team define when they are exploring in a strategically appropriate and fruitful area and when they have strayed beyond the pale. This defined area becomes the strategic frontier for the corporation, an area of potential growth that is within the strategic scope that senior executives have identified for the business.


The paper proposes that a company must idetify the most important changes that will likely take place in its future, based on trends in technology, demographics, globalization, and other environmental factors. The most intriguing of these opportunities will define a company's strategic frontiers, which become the focus of the innovation initiatives.



Bate, J. (2010), "How to explore for innovation on your organization's strategic frontier", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 32-36.

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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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