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Build: A Guide to Developing a Portfolio of Ideas and Experiments

In this report, the authors join forces to guide readers through the how-tos of building an innovation portfolio. 

  • Denise Gabel COO at Northwest Credit Union Association

Executive Summary

Consider that the word “portfolio” originated from Latin roots to be defined as “a case for carrying loose papers.” Around the time of the Great Depression, it also came to mean a collection of investments held by an institution or individual, a definition that has since eclipsed the original. Other common applications include a career portfolio (encompassing one’s education, work experience, and skills) and an artist’s portfolio (meaning both samples of artwork and the case used to display them). 

So how does the term “portfolio” apply to a company’s innovation efforts? It’s an effective way to catalog and manage a variety of initiatives that span research and development, product tweaks, line extensions, and new offerings to the marketplace. In a similar vein to overseeing any type of portfolio, innovation managers should assess and build carefully, considering aspects such as risk, returns, cash flows, and timing. In this brief, we explore new and interesting developments in the world of innovation with real-world applications to help credit unions leaders take their innovation portfolios to another level.

What is the research about?

Building on Filene’s intent to help you fish for yourself, this is the second edition of Filene’s four-part Innovation Ed Series. This brief addresses the topic of creating a portfolio as it relates to your innovation efforts. This publication leads you through developments in the world of innovation along with selected articles from MIT, Harvard, and other outside experts that will fuel your innovation efforts.

What are the credit union implications?

It is interesting to note that organizations that spent their time during the Great Recession actually innovating rather than retrenching seem to be the most optimistic—after all, they now have the newest products and services in the market and are poised to take advantage of the economic recovery. Just like the investment strategy of dollar cost averaging, when you stay in the market, you’ll buy shares at value prices and also when they are overpriced. Since no one can predict when the greater gains are going to occur, you have to be there ahead of time to gain the full benefit. By staying on course, avoiding market timing, and reallocating when needed, you’ll always be in the game.