If you want your company to outlast your tenure, make space for  innovation as you scramble to drive short-term growth. One of the approaches I wrote about in June should be on your company's menu.

How can you decide which- - if any -- of these approaches could work in your company? If you find that one or more of these approaches are worth trying, what is the most effective implementation approach?

Here are five key steps to answer these questions in the way that works best for your company.

1. Pinpoint your company's greatest competitive strength.

You should pick one (or possibly several) of the six ways to make space for innovation based on your company's greatest strength.

There are many possible strengths from which to choose -- such as developing new products, motivating talent, marketing and sales, scaling operations, and/or realizing your vision for the future.

To pinpoint your company's greatest strength, commission third parties to ask your customers questions including:

  • What are the most important factors they use to compare your products with those of your rivals?
  • For which of your products, if any, does your company prevail over those of your rivals on these factors?
  • Why do customers choose your products over those of rivals?
  • What are the most important strengths that motivate customers to choose your company?

Based on the answers to these questions, you should be able to identify your company's greatest competitive strength.

2. Pick growth opportunities that allow that strength to help you gain market share.

The next step you should take is to select growth opportunities -- markets in which your company does not currently compete -- that allow your competitive strengths to enable your company to gain market share. Such growth opportunities for your company should pass three tests:

  • the markets are large -- at least $1 billion in revenue;
  • the market hosts early-adopter customers eager to collaborate with you to develop new products; and
  • customer interviews reveal that your company's competitive strengths will help you solve the customers' most important unmet needs.

3. Identify the other capabilities needed to capture the new market.

Your company's competitive strength is a piece in a puzzle that you must complete to capture a new growth opportunity. For example, when it made the transition from the DVD-by-mail model, Netflix build its online streaming business starting with its greatest competitive strength -- its ability to analyze DVD rental data to identify the characteristics of the most-rented videos.

When Netflix decided to offer online streaming, it quickly realized that the capabilities required to succeed were mostly different from the ones it had built for offering DVDs by mail.

While Netflix cut back on its warehouses filled with DVDs, its wholesale purchases of DVDs, its warehouses for storing them, and its partnerships with the USPS for delivering and retrieving DVDs from its customers, it kept the data on its customer purchase behavior.

To compete in online streaming, Netflix needed to develop its own content. Since its customer data revealed that its DVD-by-mail customers liked movies starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher, Netflix confidently invested $100 million to license House of Cards from a British producer.

To capture the growth opportunities you identify in step 2, you must identify all the puzzle pieces required to make the business operate -- building off your company's greatest competitive strength.

4. Choose whether to make, rent, or buy the other capabilities.

You must decide whether to build the other puzzle pieces internally, rent them through a partnership, or acquire a company that does them well. There are many different approaches to doing this.

For example, Cisco was great at marketing and sales and it captured new growth opportunities by acquiring startups that made the new products that Cisco's customers were eagerly buying.

To make this strategy work, Cisco developed a new skill -- identifying acquisition targets that fit with its business objectives and managing the integration so smoothly that the acquisition would appear seamless to the customer by the time the deal closed.

To decide whether to make, rent, or buy those complementary puzzle pieces, weigh factors such as:

  • the cost and time required to get the required capability up and running;
  • the complexity of coordinating the relationship -- which is most important in considering the rent option; and
  • the quality of the people and technology available from each option.

Do what gets your company the required capability running with the best people and technology in the shortest amount of time.

5. Carefully roll out your chosen innovation path.

Finally, when you think you have the puzzle assembled properly, try it in a small part of your company to work out the kinks. If there are problems, learn what does not work and fix it. If it does work, use this method to make space for innovation throughout the company.