Most innovation centers failed to genuinely innovate – Now let’s fix it

What worked for startups can now also work for enterprises. While the innovation process, purpose, and reasoning should be the same, the leadership structure is very different. Over the past four years, we learned so much about the difference between innovation in corporations and in startups that today realize: Enterprises had no realistic chance to be innovative – even when acquiring a startup. That difference requires an understanding of how innovative ideas are created, getting your c-level involved in crafting an innovation mandate, and redefining your innovation process to focus on your customer’s true needs and dreams. It’s time to rethink the act of innovation and pursue genuine groundbreaking innovation. 

How ideas get created

Neuroscience had the single biggest impact on our modern understanding of innovation. One key aspect is the realization that ideas don’t come randomly and there are no “magic ideas out of the blue”. The brain composes ideas from past experiences and those compositions represent the power and the limit of our creativity. We cannot have ideas about situations that we have never experienced. Every successful innovation started by observing and understanding an existing problem. If there is no problem to solve, there is no success to be gained. When we know how innovation is created, we can request certain results, we can request insights, and measure and manage the effort. Most importantly executives, now know what they can expect or request from an innovation effort. This understanding drives an entirely different ideation process and calls for a very different innovation process in general: it requires CEO and customers involvement.

Innovation is a CEO mandate

Genuine Innovation is a long-term engagement. It usually takes less than six months to create an innovative solution, but on average 5 to 10 years to be recognized as an innovation in the market. Innovation is the duality of brilliant ideation and relentless execution. Even the fastest startups took 7 to 10 years to become market leaders. Moreover, most of today’s innovations of significance consumed more than a billion dollars to become successful. Capital requirements of that size cannot be decided by an innovation department. With today’s knowledge of how innovative ideas can be stimulated and how those ideas could be brought to market, repeatability, the act of innovation is changing profoundly – even for startups. With that, another key consideration needs to be made: An innovation team that comes up with a new idea must also bring it successfully to market. The existing sales, marketing, production, and logistics departments do not offer any leverage – it’s the opposite; they cannot bring a highly innovative solution to market and sell conventional products to conventional buyers. It’s about Time, Capital, and Structure decisions that CEOs together with their boards can only make.

For more information and additional insights download the “Innovation is a CEO mandate” Whitepaper.

It’s all about the customer

By working with thousands of startups, we learned that innovation success stemmed from a deep understanding of the customer’s problems. This knowledge, combined with our understanding of how innovative ideas are composed, made us realize there was a need for completely rethinking innovation. While corporate innovation labs either spend lots of time finding ideas, experimenting or randomly ideating, the top unicorns developed brilliant ideas based on their research and moved on to relentless execution. Corporate innovation labs try to solve problems they believe exist. They follow the model of “wouldn’t it be cool if we could…” and they love to play all kinds of “thinking games”. They heard about “fail and fail fast”, “pivoting” and “experimenting” without ever questioning if that is actually delivering results.  They copy the 90% of startups that fail without even knowing. 

Successful entrepreneurs look intensely into what their designated audience is doing, what they like and dislike, what they think, and how they see their future. They may not build what their customers asked for, but develop and deliver a solution that is in their dreams. 

Stop looking at what others do

find out what your customers are dreaming about.

Solve the problems they have that others could not solve yet.

 

You can catch up with the market to survive by following what others do. But the financial market will recognize it accordingly. A follower won’t beat the innovator. Rethink the act of innovation – define the innovation culture at the top, listen to your customers and stop being a follower.

Authored by: Alyssa Wengi

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