Start with your innovation vision, then work out how to get there

Every business needs to be ready for what the future brings. But in our fast-changing world, gazing into the crystal ball is daunting.


Looking far ahead in a structured, methodical way doesn’t always come naturally, and can feel overwhelming. Every day, industries are being turned on their heads and seeing their category rules rewritten, with disruption often coming from the places we least expect it.

This makes the future look increasingly complex, contradictory, fragmented and incomplete. We can all see what the big trends are now, but when we start asking “so what?” the view gets blurry.

It’s hardly surprising then, that many organisations focus on short-term battles and day-to-day needs, rather than taking a step back to establish a clear view on the future of your category. Brands need structured, systematic trends analysis, and a way to translate those trends into concrete decisions and actions – what do these trends mean and where should they place the big bets that will define their future performance?

This is why we’ve developed a new innovation approach to address precisely this challenge. We call it Vision-Led Innovation.

Instead of starting with an assessment of where a business or category is right now, Vision-Led is about looking ahead: defining a vision of what the “new normal” of your category will look like. Then, it’s about turning that vision into action.

So how do we ensure success when rolling out this approach?

1. Go boldly

Studying trends can be confusing and overwhelming. Instead of trying to consider them all at once, be bold about deciding which ones are likely to have the most and least impact on your business. This will allow you to pick your battles and decide which future scenarios and themes you want to be on top of. Based on this, you can develop a clear articulation of what the “new normal” of your category might look like.

2. Create a vision of the future – and champion it

Once you’ve identified a “dot on the horizon” – a future vision of your category – it’s vital to bring it to life in an inspirational and compelling way that will engage and excite people, giving them the courage to challenge the norms of today.

3. Experience first, solution later

It’s tempting to start by trying to come up with a solution or product concept for the future. But this should really be the final step, not the first. Instead, try to formulate a distinctive and ownable experience within the vision that allows you to prosper in the future.

4. Work backwards from the future to the present

Instead of planning forwards from now, start with your dot on the horizon and work backwards to today. This way, you can see what you can start doing at what point in time, to be ready for the future. Come up with a “reverse roadmap” of innovations you can develop on a variety of timelines, and define the “minimal viable proposition” that will be required to succeed at different points in the future.

5. Reinvent your business

When organisations struggle to adapt to a “new normal”, it’s often because they didn’t develop the right capabilities, partnerships, business model or culture – rather than because they didn’t have the right technology or product. Be prepared to challenge all assumptions around your existing organisation, business model and proposition to succeed in the future.

At Happen we’re already using Vision-Led Innovation to help our clients overcome short-term thinking and embed a long-term perspective into their innovation strategy and pipeline. We’re not only helping them to prepare for the future, we’re helping them to create it.

To find out more, download our one pager here, or send us an email.