Disciplined Innovation - Leadership Program - Mentora Institute

Disciplined Innovation

Discover winning solutions to critical business challenges in fast-changing, uncertain conditions.

The Case for Innovation at the Workplace

The need for organizations to evolve and develop more purposeful approaches to drive innovation has never been greater, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A McKinsey report shows that prioritizing innovation is the key to unlocking post crisis growth. Research also shows that the average lifespan of an S&P company has gone down from 61 years in 1958 to less than 18 years in 2018. Simply put, the risk of not innovating is to become extinct. 

Innovation has for long been recognized as a core driver of growth, performance, and valuation. 

In fact, on average, innovative companies generate 3.6 percentage points greater total annual shareholder returns than their peers. Further, in the years following the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the publicly traded members of Boston Consulting Group’s 2007 ranking of “50 Most Innovative Companies” outperformed the larger market on shareholder returns by 5.6 percent every year till the end of 2019. 

Studies even show that a well-constructed team that brings together the abilities and skills of a world-class innovator can end up compensating for a lack of “founders”. 

Sources: Deloitte, McKinsey, and Boston Consulting Group

While 80 percent of innovation executives report that innovation is a top-three priority for them, only 30 percent believe their organization is good at it. 

86 percent of senior executives believe that innovation is critical. And yet, only 6 percent report feeling confident about their organization’s ability to innovate. 

61 percent of U.S. employees say that their employer expects them to be creative and innovative at work. But only 18 percent of them say they can take the kinds of risks at work that would allow innovation to happen. 

Another survey shows that only 1 in 5 employees say that their job currently allows them to work on — or even share — their most innovative ideas. 

A whopping 94 percent of executives are dissatisfied with their firms’ innovation performance.

Sources: McKinsey, Gallup Insights, Boston Consulting Group

Behaviors Learned

  • Differentiate core elements from tactics Differentiate core elements from tactics
  • Inner master outer impact- discover ones Identify key unknowns that need to be de-risked
  • Develop a flexible roadmap Develop a flexible roadmap that resolves these unknowns and adjusts project direction accordingly
  • Design and Execute Design and execute fast, low-cost experiments
  • a light bulb vector icon Maximize insights at every stage of the innovation cycle — and adapt accordingly

Core Ideas

Mentora’s approach to Disciplined Innovation applies principles of Venture Capital to maximize innovation success for clients:

  1. Invest a little, upfront: You’ll only fully learn by doing — but you don’t need to bet the farm. 
  2. Invest in a staged manner: Identify key risks and focus on resolving these in stages. Invest only from one stage to the next. 
  3. Fast fail: Align incentives so that a project can be terminated if some critical assumption(s) on which its success hinges is disproved.
  4. Do fast iterations: Create cycles where you test, learn and adapt, and stay open to pivoting in new directions as new learnings accrue. 
  5. Investigate multiple paths to success: Don’t get stuck with a single path that has high risk — investigate alternative paths to success.
Case Study

How to Thrive in a Vuca World


In the midst of a shrinking drug pipeline, efforts to contain costs, rapid changes in how physicians and patients learn about new drugs and make prescription choices, Pfizer was looking for a way to help their Sales & Marketing teams — which were risk averse and tethered to traditional ways of thinking and operating — find new, winning paths to drug commercialization.


Pfizer partnered with Mentora to create a learning journey that would help these leaders and their teams shift from a culture of risk aversion to a culture of disciplined innovation, thereby overcoming the internal and external barriers they had been facing.


We worked closely with Pfizer’s team leaders to design and deliver a learning journey that would help their Sales & Marketing managers learn how to:

  • Constantly test new ideas — and monitor, improve, adjust, or fast-fail them.
  • Distinguish smart failures from dumb failures.
  • Develop flexible responses to multiple scenarios.
  • Reduce downside risks for investments in new initiatives.
  • Build a learning culture.

Mentora engaged in four phases of program design, development, and deployment:

  • Phase #1: Design – Identify best practices, key principles, tools and techniques.
  • Phase #2: Train – Deliver training to several U.S. Sales & Marketing groups.
  • Phase #3: Integrate – Hire and develop a core group of experts.
  • Phase #4: Scale Up – License Mentora’s content for internal training across the globe.



The impact of our solution was lauded by the CEO of Pfizer after having witnessed a major cultural transformation in the teams based in Europe. On the CEO’s recommendation, our program was institutionalized, scaled up, and rolled out across all major global markets. Mentora’s collaboration with Pfizer on Disciplined Innovation won Pfizer’s Corporate Innovation Award.

  • 3+ years of Pfizer-Mentora partnership
  • 1,000+ participants learned new innovation tools and introduced them into their projects.
Participant Voices

The Disciplined Innovation Program won a top corporate award, and was recognized by Pfizer’s CEO as a key component in their transformation platform.

Executive | Pfizer

Participant Voices

We worked with Mentora on the process of Disciplined Innovation. The first place we implemented it was in Europe. Shortly afterwards, our CEO, Ian Read, came back to New York and said: “I had a very interesting conversation in Europe. I normally go there and all I hear about is how difficult the environment is, and how our sales are lagging because the government is exerting pressure, and this time it was different. I heard solutions. I heard ‘Here are the things we are going to try.’” This resonated with our CEO so much that he institutionalized the process across the organization.

David Kreutter, Vice President, Global Business Analytics & Insights | Pfizer