With a very packed house, we kicked off our new event series, Make Innovation Happen, as an opportunity for corporates to share their key learnings, and encourage change and growth. It was a chance for us to give a platform to our peers in corporates who are the driving forces in making innovation happen. We wanted to talk to people, not just about the need for innovation, but the practical realities of it.
The Bakery’s co-founders were there, along with Glisser, a fun, interactive event technology that let our guests participate to the conversation and the Q&A. Our keynote speaker was Scott Campbell, Director at Deloitte Ventures, followed by a panel hosted by executive coach, Forbes contributor and National Business Awards adviser John Welsh, with guests Laura Turkington, Global Innovation and Senior Business Development Manager at Vodafone; Ali Grey, Senior Director, Digital Incubation at Inmarsat; and Alex Dunsdon, Co-Founder of The Bakery.
Innovation is a journey, which should only start after determining that you’re on the right path for the right reasons. With the most critical question being, ‘why am I doing this’, you should be able to understand why you’re innovating, what you’re innovating, what good looks like, and the results you aim to achieve.
Innovation is something that happens on the way to an ambitious, purposeful goal. Projects that do not focus on a live challenge run the risk of failure; there should be an applicable business case to ensure a greater chance of success.
Moving quickly and working effectively is critical. While it’s harder for corporates to be nimble, one way to keep up is by being adaptable. The classic quote often attributed to Charles Darwin sums it up: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
Innovation is often about digital transformation, which requires new skill sets. It’s also about encouraging your team to push the boundaries and discover new technologies. Remember the beginning of the Internet? Amongst the many speculators were the few who focused on the doors it opened, and recognised it as a whole new world of possibilities.
It’s crucial to find ways and mechanisms to move people and incentivise them. Metrics will always have their place, but the biggest motivator for corporates is other corporates’ activities. Use this information to make people see that if the organisation isn’t disruptive then others will be.
For management to create a shift in mentality is single handedly one of the biggest challenges with the biggest payoffs. Where to start? Introduce new ways of thinking; highlight business erosion; or demonstrate transparency of each departments operations. It’s no longer about streamlining, but rather holistic disruption.
Sometimes the best allies aren’t the most senior, but instead might be decision makers with access to budget, who will spend time on innovation. Similarly, staff who have just quit, or are ready to, can be invaluable because they know the business inside out, they’re likely frustrated with the status quo, and if given the chance they would change it.
In every organisation there are usually about 10–50 people who are up for innovation. Think of that as leverage. Those who bring this energy are a gift, with personalities that are more open and receptive. So hunt them out. Have a good coffee budget. Talk to people a lot. Repeat yourself a lot. And when you find the champions, stay close to them, profile them and hero them.
We know that implementing these learnings isn’t easy. That’s why The Bakery brings its experience and start-up network to corporates: to help them innovate faster and better. In doing so, an organisation can see big changes internally along with finding solutions to business issues.
Taking this approach can alleviate many of the classic problems that corporations face with innovation. Workshops that lead nowhere or endless meetings that result in missed opportunities. Design by committee or rushed products with no customer development. And progress slowed by an aversion to anything risky, new or small. But once you’ve asked the right questions, helped to change thinking, and found great people to work with, the internal landscape can look very different.
You know you have helped to introduce an entrepreneurial mindset, when you’re challenging your organisation rather than it challenging you. A successful innovation programme run by those driven by change will ensure a corporate is strongly positioned for the future.
Nandu Nandkishore, Executive Fellow of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School, recently worked with Fortune 500 CEO John Michael Lafferty on the review ‘Going Extinct: Why Corporate Giants Die.’ They discuss how the average lifespan of a corporate has declined from 90 years in 1920, to 60 years in the 1950s, to just 17 years today. The three reasons for this being: a tired business model, the rise of e-commerce, and companies without mavericks. “You can’t innovate by appointing a Chief Innovation Officer or making a plan. It has to be enmeshed in the culture of an organisation.”
Currently there’s a shift towards embedding innovation into corporate culture. Several high profile innovation labs closed down over 2014–2016, including those set up by Disney, Coca-Cola, and Turner/Warner Bros. But what we’re now seeing is corporates approaching innovation with clear intentions, and getting strong results.
IKEA’s Space10 in Copenhagen has a mission to ‘create a better everyday life’ with creations including an augmented reality app for viewing its furniture in your own home. Conversely, Home Depot’s Orangeworks in Atlanta doesn’t focus on products to sell. Instead it assesses technology that could improve customers’ experiences or its operations. It has already created a virtual pallet stacker for heavy warehouse items.
Meanwhile Accenture approaches innovation as part of its clients needs. Its US innovation labs are being expanded to help clients who face disruption from new technology. And Lego has a defined innovation goal: to source more sustainable materials for products. As part of procurement it has implemented a 7-stage process for working with suppliers.
Some of the key advances in corporate innovation are happening in the UK, set to create jobs and show the rest of the world that it’s a leader in this area. For example, Amazon has recently announced plans to expand its innovation centre in Cambridge, set up a new corporate centre in Manchester and increase capacity at its Edinburgh centre.
This kind of news is also welcome as Brexit looms. In the face of that, UK corporate innovation is set to have a direct impact on keeping trade routes open. Within maritime, the move of goods across borders is compromised by political developments. The industry globally is embracing digitalisation, with UK corporates at the forefront.
Through corporate collaboration and funding, London-based start-up CargoMate has developed a platform to help containerships reduce delays in port. And Hull-based Relmar is developing an AI-powered maintenance platform for ships to maximise uptime while minimising risk and cost.
With so much activity around corporate innovation worldwide, we believe that over the next ten years corporate venture will become one of the fastest-growing categories of venture. Big things are going to come from it and we hope to play a small part in that, through connecting corporates with start-ups.
Start-ups don’t have language around innovation; they simply innovate. That’s why bringing them together with corporates can have such exciting results and a large impact. We’ll be continuing to help make innovation happen by introducing them and working with corporates to accelerate their processes and unlock their potential.
Can Corporations Learn to Innovate Like Start-ups?
Duncan Jeffries, The Guardian, 2 October 2018: https://bit.ly/2NhCXxn
Going Extinct: Why Corporate Giants Die
Nandu Nandkishore and James Michael Lafferty, London Business School, 19 October 2018: https://bit.ly/2RzLU7O
Companies like IKEA and Accenture are Following in Google’s Footsteps to Stay Ahead of the Curve
Shana Lebowitz, Business Insider UK, 17 September 2018: https://read.bi/2JBivY1
Emma Freiha at eWorld — Innovation at Lego and Beyond
Peter Smith, www.spendmatters.com, 22 October 2018: https://bit.ly/2PRbRzn
Cambridge to Get 180 New Jobs as Amazon Announces Innovation Plan
Adrian Curtis, Cambridge Independent, 18 October 2018: https://bit.ly/2OzeCZa
Solving the Shipping Industry’s Technological Problems is a Huge Opportunity for the UK
Bob Sanguinetti and Nick Chubb, City AM, 2 November 2018: https://bit.ly/2AJSH9n