Where Are Your Resources Focused?

Innovation, much like ‘strategy’ requires a lot of discipline around continuously assessing and measuring resource allocation (time, money, people, energy, etc.) to assure you have it calibrated for optimal results.  I have had the opportunity to work with some very interesting groups of startup leaders since I launched my business.  An exercise that always yields a few “Ahhhah” moments is one relating to digging into core and context as part of exploring opportunities for innovation.

I first became intrigued with the core and context model for resource allocation when I read Geoffrey Moore’s Dealing with Darwin which came out in 2005.  He focused on how the market will reward your investment in core and context during different stages of the lifecycle of a companies’ evolution.  

There are many different ways in which a leadership team can utilize core and context thinking to innovate and continuously improve to achieve success.  In early growth stages of a company, this is critical.  A team or founders come together, they are passionate about what they want to bring to the world and go about building it.  They surround themselves with the resources to get everything done, sometimes bringing folks in, sometimes contracting work out, sometimes burning the midnight oil themselves, but mostly focused on just GETTING IT DONE!  As the company (or product line or offer) moves beyond introduction to growth stage – where acquiring new customers, keeping the offer fresh and differentiated, and assuring customers are delighted – it is often very worthwhile to step back and view the current state from the perspective of core and context.  What was core in the early days may have shifted as the company or product offer matured.  Often, however, what has not shifted is how it was all getting done.

Reaffirm what makes you special in the marketplace as a team.

  • As a leadership team, get together and restate what you believe to be the secret sauce of what makes you (or will be making you in earlier phases) unique and differentiated and valuable to the markets/customers you seek to attract.

Take inventory of the following:

  • Where is the key high potential talent or key leadership inside the company spending their time
  • What processes or capabilities are expending the most personnel or financial resources?

Map out which activities or processes by percentages of time or money expended in  either core or context.

  • Activities and resource in support of your special sauce are CORE – the activities that support what makes you unique in the market and uniquely valuable to the customers you serve or wish to serve;
  • All other activities fall in the area of CONTEXT.  Note, however, this does not mean that context is not important.  It is table stakes – you do not get a lot of credit in the marketplace from your clients/prospects because you have it, but you would or could be dismissed if you did not or if you executed it poorly;

Precision is not required here.  Something as simple as taking a quick look at your calendar for the last month and identifying where your time was spent as a leader and coming up with the percentage of time spent in Core vs Context can be telling.

ImageIf this example to the left is the core high potential talent team or the leadership team of GreatNew Company, there may be an excellent opportunity for innovation or change in the operational or business model.

Maybe it’s time to check out staffing up Jimmy’s group so that he is not personally so engaged in context?

Maybe most of what Susan was doing can now be outsourced with her oversight since it is increasing in volume but not changing from a process standpoint?


Make sense?  How often do you believe this type of exercise is most useful in your environment?  If you need more structure for accomplishing this, give us a call.  We have conducted simple and short or longer more in depth workshops for client teams around this very context.  It opens up lots of interesting options for innovations, but more importantly keeps your company and leaders freshly focused on what makes you special and what is believed to be most important to achieve your big audacious goals for growth!

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