How To Embrace Innovation

How companies can adopt a corporate mentality that embraces innovation


It's a given that change is vital to success, both in life and in business. But it's still not something that ever feels natural, let alone when it comes to making big alterations within your organization, which can often feel counter-intuitive to employees on every level. And yet, innovation would be impossible if businesses chose to stand still. Ben Trinh, Head of Influencer and Marketing Strategy at Postmates, argues that "you can be and stay ready for disruption by being open to change and being willing to experiment. Disruption is NOT a bad thing. You don't have to avoid it, you should be ready for it."

On the whole, adopting a corporate mentality that embraces taking risks is vital to achieving a culture that inspires innovation, ensuring your company does not fall behind. In the current climate, digital technologies are driving innovation across a range of industries. According to The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 79% of strong innovators reported that they have a properly digitized innovation processes, while just 29% of weak innovators made the same claim. The shift towards digital innovation is critical to the continuation of a business, so a company today needs to be consistently encouraging a corporate mentality than embraces this change with open arms.

So, how can companies ensure they are adopting a mentality that openly embraces change, disruption, and innovation? We spoke to industry leaders about their thoughts and techniques:

Jo Clancy, Senior Strategy Analyst & Innovation Lead, Transport Accident Commission

"The key changes that are needed to embrace innovation at a corporate level are:

1. Leaving behind the focus on a 'business case' with fully assumed 'benefits' articulated for every initiative or a new idea. Instead, have other more flexible ways for your people to obtain seed funding to experiment and try new things. There should still be a focus on objective measurement but different measures to those traditionally sought in business cases like ROI, revenue and or cost indicators etc. Instead, focus more on customer engagement and uptake measures in the early phases.

2. Build in a focus on organizational learning in these seed initiatives so that if they don't hit these customer measures. Ask yourself 'why not?', as it can be really valuable as you seek the next seed initiative that could ultimately be successful.

3) Embrace risk management in these seed initiatives - use early experimentation to test risk in small scale and work out which risk mitigation treatment works the best. This is invaluable if you then want to scale the initiative being fully informed (and being able to communicate this to others) about the risk and reward you are anticipating at scale."

Hear more from Jo Clancy at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in Melbourne, March 15 & 16.

Milan Sud, Head of Innovation, AXA Partners UK & Irl At AXA

"- Start small, prove and scale

- Be clear of KPI’s from outset

- Solve a real problem, your solutions should be data driven

- Understand how lines between sectors are becoming blurred, the traditional value chain no longer applies

- Understand the difference between innovation for show and innovation for dough!"

You can hear Milan's presentation at the Open Innovation Summit in London on April 25 & 26.

Rajesh Aggarwal, Senior Vice President for Strategic Business Development at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

"The biggest challenge is culture – the concept of ‘we have always done it this way’, and associated with this is the concept of de-innovation which is far less talked about. There is only so much bandwidth for companies to undertake innovation, with respect to operational demands. It is thus necessary for innovation either to be the underpinning strategy of the company, such as for a new start-up, or for an established company looking for a major turnaround, or to be firewalled from the operational constraints of the company itself, so that the ‘innovation group’ can be nimble, opportunistic and take risks – which if successful would then be implemented across the rest of the company.

And what are the key ingredients of a successful innovation strategy? What are the common characteristics of a failed innovation strategy? People, people, and people."

Jacques Markgraaff, GM Strategy, Planning & Innovation at Coca-Cola Amatil

"First and foremost, the company needs to eradicate a risk-averse culture to foster a ‘learning’ environment built upon prototyping, agile methodology, trialling etc.

The business needs to have the customer flow through every vein of the company. Far too often innovation happens in the comfortable confines of HQ. Get out into the trade and speak to real customers to test ‘desirability’.

Cultivating a culture that is more autonomous and less command and control – i.e. take the initiative and don’t wait to be told or for permission.

Align the innovation with the business strategy and across the value chain.

Although not everyone is necessarily an intrapreneur, innovation should be everyone's business – not some fancy lab or innovation hub which seldom deliver.

Make sure you have the requisite sponsorship and support – otherwise you may be asking for forgiveness rather than permission which isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on your culture.

Watch out for budget cuts and incumbent thinking – it kills creativity and initiative.

Corporates need to find ways to incentivize intrapreneurs within their business.

Generic innovation seldom works – set a specific challenge to the business or define the problem/opportunity you’re looking to innovate against.

Avoid unnecessary bureaucratic processes wherever you can as they will cause any business case to die before its even begun or for the teams to lose energy and hope.

Once an idea looks to have merit, make sure resources are committed – not a ‘side-of-desk’ project."

To hear more from Jacques Markgraaff, join him on the 15-16 March in Melbourne for the Chief Strategy Officer Summit.

Jeremy Balkin, Head of Innovation for HSBC Bank USA

"In my experience a successful innovation strategy is based on three pillars: External, Internal and Exponential. How you allocate time and resources to each pillar needs to be dynamic and fluid, while recognizing the cultural constraints within your organization or team to get the optimal outcomes for your customers and people."

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