Should Innovation Be Done Inside Or Outside The Corporate Walls?

5 questions with Annalisa Gigante, Board member at ZIS, former SVP Innovation and R&D at LafargeHolcim


Ahead of her presentation at  the Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London this October 19-20, we spoke to Annalisa Gigante, Board member at ZIS, and former SVP Innovation and R&D at LafargeHolcim.

Annalisa Gigante is Board member at ZIS and former SVP Innovation and R&D at LafargeHolcim. She has 15 years of experience in digital transformation, and was previously an Executive Committee Member of Adecco Group, as Chief Business Development and Marketing Officer. She started her career at Bain & Company in Milan and has held senior international roles in general management, strategy, business development, innovation, and marketing - in chemicals, life sciences (Monsanto, DSM), and HR services.

Annalisa holds a BA Hons and MA Hons in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and an MBA from Bocconi.

How did you get started in your career?

I started in Consulting with Bain, working on strategy projects in FMCG, international joint ventures, and M&A for Italian clients. My first innovation projects, though, were in an Exxon-Monsanto JV - finding new applications and designs for advanced materials in industries, as diverse as personal care, electronics, sports equipment, and even perfume packaging.

What are the main components of a successful innovation strategy?

A number of elements are critical for a high performing innovation team: culture and open mindedness are the most pervasive. The best teams are also able to balance creativity to define the right things to work on, and efficiency to deliver the projects...which is a very difficult thing to do!

Is open innovation worth the risk?

How about the risk of not doing open innovation? What then?

As long as the aims are clear and the Intellectual Property situation has been assessed and planned for, open innovation can bring new opportunities and accelerate time to market. Of course, the process does not guarantee results, but we always learn from it and make new valuable connections.

How important is it to collaborate with the startup community? What are your thoughts on internal and external incubator programs?

It's always engaging to be in touch with developments in the startup community. I am particularly interested in the way business models are tried, changed, and improved upon.

On one hand, large companies can help startups reach significant scale, although their different speeds and systems sometimes make collaboration a challenge. I believe external incubators guarantee space and the ability for startups to perfect their business idea and growth. Typically, these startups would need to reach a critical mass in order to benefit from collaborations with large global companies.

On the other hand, sharing office space with lean and exciting startups can be a great source of energy for corporate teams.

Whether you choose one model or the other depends on your wider goals which can include culture, teamwork, broader organisation and development goals, beyond, just business investment or strategy choices.

What can delegates expect from your presentation at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit?

The presentation will cover practical tips on how to get the best results and impact from innovation.

Whether working on new products/services, business models with physical or digital solutions, the key questions are similar: should innovation be done inside or outside the corporate walls? How many projects should we work on at the same time? How to promote collaboration within the company and outside? How to have both global scale and local relevance? Examples and frameworks will help make these choices so that they are right for your organisation and it’s goals.

You can hear from Annalisa and other industry leaders at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit, taking place in London this October 19-20.


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