Common Themes in Stimulating Commercial Innovation
Any Approach Can Work
Innovation Funding and Risk
Creating the Best Approach
1. Align innovation programs with corporate culture 2. Cultivate strong relationships between innovators and business lines 3. Design funding programs to foster risk taking
Challenges and Pitfalls
The challenges that our participants described were remarkably similar given the diverse set of companies represented.
The cultural impact of today’s innovation environment frequently comes as a shock to corporate employees. As Chris Townsend, Chief Marketing Officer at Wellspring, shared, when the first commercially available telephones were made, there was only one party in the supply chain. In contrast, Apple has more than 200 suppliers and performed over 1,000 supplier assessments last year. Participants reported differing change management strategies. For example, one of the innovation leaders is also leading Enterprise Change Management. Another was previously aligned with the chief information officer (CIO) but has since moved into the business office to advocate, promote, and drive change at a faster pace. Both described significant changes in their work environment from closed offices to agile workspace with no walls as part of the new techniques for increasing innovation.
Centralization or Decentralization
The group had a spirited conversation about whether innovation resources should be centralized. Approaches used were mixed among the companies represented. The upside of centralization is that dedicated resources are not pulled into day-to-day operations. The downside is that connectivity with the business is more easily lost. Those favoring a centralized approach shared that they established deliberate mechanisms to maintain collaboration, such as seeding innovation groups with high performers from the business and/or use of rotational assignments. They all acknowledged that new ideas can come from any person in the business, regardless of their title or responsibilities; thus, empowering and encouraging participation was needed regardless of the structure chosen.
Transitioning to Scale
The most difficult challenge voiced by the group is effectively transitioning innovations from proof-of-concept stage to full scale. They noted that after meeting initial milestones such as a proof of concept, it is incumbent upon the innovator to take their idea forward and get funding from a business line. One imagines that some innovators are more skilled at this “selling” than others. Innovation leaders can act as mentors in this process, but ultimately have limited bandwidth. Increasing the velocity and number of successful crossings of this chasm is perhaps a topic for another roundtable. Let us know if you have an effective strategy to share. Based on their comments, each of our participants found the roundtable to be highly informative and useful. Conversations sparked many new ideas, and lasting relationships were formed, so much so that the group is now planning a “field trip” to visit the agile workspaces and continue the discussion. We look forward to seeing continued collaborations among the group and hope to see both them and you at an upcoming roundtable! Contact us to learn how Fuentek can help provide you with high-quality innovation management services.