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How to create innovation strategies through social values

How can social values influence and guide a process of innovation? Find out in this article.
Decorative image, Sky Planters hanging from a ceiling filled with plants and flowers.
© Boskke; The Royal College of Art

Mission statements and social values define innovation strategies. When these elements inspire, they stimulate proactive behaviour and the capacity to generate positive change and innovation. In this article, we will articulate how social values can influence and guide a process of innovation.

How can social values be deployed by a business to develop an innovation strategy?

To answer this question, we need to look at the following factors:

  • The position the business occupies in its market or sector.
  • The sector’s most frequent ethical and social issues.
  • Customers’ needs and expectations.
  • Any partnership that can contribute to fostering innovation.
  • A company’s preparedness to attract new talent.

Ford’s innovation strategy

Let’s analyse these points through Ford’s mission statement. The company has been renowned for more than 100 years as a car maker; this defines a clear position in the automotive sector. Nonetheless, in recent years, this sector has gone through dramatic transformations because of climatic events (CO2 emissions), lifestyle (car ownership), technology (autonomous cars) and natural resources (petrol extractions), to name the primary changes, which are pushing change and transformation at a very fast pace.

To navigate these challenges, be relevant and at the cutting edge of the market, innovation is key. What makes a difference, though, is the strategy of innovation.

Ford’s mission statement presents its innovation strategy as solutions that aim to make people move through accessible and affordable means. These two values give mobility specific “features” and also clarify what Ford’s position is in respect to the issues that affect the sector. This statement is therefore a declaration of Ford’s culture of innovation, and it expresses its role in the market by including its employees, any new hires, any partners and what customers expect from it. The statement becomes a way to position the company in the market and defines the way it wants to engage with its network through an alternative lens.

Using social values as innovation statements

Using social values as innovation statements gives the business a clear and focused agenda and identity. These values guide Ford to think about innovative solutions, but also what partnerships should be developed to fill any gap, or enhance any process, that could help the company achieve its goals.

Social values act as critical “filters” that inform any decision-making involving customers, employees, suppliers and partners. They define the way a company wants to innovate; the short- and long-term planning involved, the talent to hire, the partnerships to develop, the suppliers to work with. In other words, it helps unravel the systems of relations the company should develop to achieve its goals.

Shaping the process of innovation

By positioning a company against the market, the sector and the network of people it intends or currently works with, social values help companies to keep a dialogue with their objectives through the opportunities that are offered to achieve them; they shape a process of innovation not merely aimed at satisfying customers’ needs, but also interpreting any changes and issues society goes through in order to encode them in any long- and short-term planning.

Ford is therefore no longer a carmaker, but a company that looks at solutions to mobility that are accessible and affordable.

In summary, social values are able to identify, inform and critically interrogate the process of innovation from the expertise of a company. They help to build knowledge by interrogating anything knowable in the objectives a company targets to achieve new ideas that are valuable for the company, the sector it is part of, and society.

© The Royal College of Art
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