Writing effective goals

Modified on Thu, 15 Sep 2022 at 05:30 PM

In Acclaim Ideas, everything starts with goals. Goals set the direction of travel for your organisation's efforts, helping you to ensure that your people's creative efforts are aligned with what the organisation wants and needs.

But what's the best way of writing goals? Here are our top tips for making them effective:

1. Align them with your organisational objectives

It sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many times we've seen innovation teams working on goals that bear little or no relation to what the organisation is trying to achieve. This can happen for a number of reasons. One example is where a senior person says 'hey, let's do something exciting with AI/blockchain/robots' without pausing to consider whether this decision makes any sense. And before you know it, the tail is wagging the dog. 

So when you're entering your goals, make sure they are firmly rooted in, and aligned with, your organisation's strategic objectives.

2. Think about where to play and how to win

Two of the most important elements of an organisational strategy are where to play, and how to win. 'Where to play' identifies the markets, sectors or industries your organisation wants to target, while 'How to win' identifies what your organisation can offer that market or industry that no other organisation can: your unique value proposition, your differentiator. Where to play and how to win are strong guides for where your organisation needs its innovation efforts to focus, in order to address unanswered challenges in those markets and/or offer new ways of creating value.

3. Keep them high level, and not too specific

The more specific your goals, the less likely it is that you are leaving any room for creativity or new ideas (and the more likely it is that you are writing tactics, not strategic directions). Goals should be broad and high-level, so people can feel free to address them in as wide a range of ways as possible. The narrower the Goal, the less likely it is that you will access the lateral thinking that could power truly radical innovation.

4. Inspire!

Goals are an opportunity to get your people excited about innovation - so make them inspiring. Create excitement through your language and by painting a bright and positive vision of the future. The more excited and engaged your people are in your goals, the more likely they are to come up with creative ideas on how to achieve them. Sometimes, using a storytelling approach can be really effective in getting people inspired: what will the world, and the organisation, look like when this goal is achieved?

5. What does success look like?

Just because your goals are broad and high-level doesn't mean you can't specify how you will know when they're achieved. For example, 'improving our standing in the market' is broad and high-level, but it's also rather vague. 'Being rated number one in the market for reliability and customer service' is measurable, while still leaving room for people to come up with ideas about how to achieve it. 

Further Reading

How to align innovation with your corporate strategy - Innovationmanagement.se

The five questions of strategy - Harvard Business Review

Playing to win: how strategy really works - YouTube

How stories shape our choices and create impact - CX Partners

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