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Three key factors to successful corporate innovation

After talking to many innovation managers from various corporates, we are sharing our top four key factors for successful corporate innovation.

1. Setting clear expectations and goals with the stakeholders

Our study participants explain that one of the most critical factors to manage corporate innovation successfully is proper expectation management. Very early in the process, innovation projects can be praised as the “new, big thing” with a lot of management attention, and also invested money.

That always makes it very hard to pivot or even shut the projects down. The more time/money/”heart” has already been invested in something, the harder it is to give up (also called the Sunk-Cost Fallacy).

To avoid this crux, you need to set clear expectations with the stakeholders and communicate the lean approach to the relevant stakeholders. Not everyone is familiar with the modern lean innovation management processes, so they need to learn new ways of working. Also, keep the validation and proof-of-concept phase on a small budget (needless to say, this is what makes the management and other stakeholders happy as well.)

Set clear expectations with the stakeholders and communicate the lean approach to the relevant stakeholders.

2. Invest in human capital

A corporate’s dedication and willingness to invest, especially in people and not just in new hardware, is vital for a flourishing corporate innovation culture. Therefore, you need to build up a team that has the right skills and knowledge, also about entrepreneurship and lean innovation methods. This way, the team will know about iterative processes – meaning how to “build, measure, learn” and guide the innovative idea to success.

No team is perfect and complete from the beginning, especially in innovation teams on a tight budget. However, you don’t need to be able to execute it all alone. Don’t fear to outsource certain tasks e.g., marketing and building prototypes.

Nevertheless, a lot of innovative projects fail and that is normal. It’s important to encourage and foster a corporate culture where failure is seen as an opportunity to learn and grow. Every unsuccessful experiment will provide useful feedback that can lead to success later on.

3. Make time to do it right

At least 50 % (better 80 %) of the time should be spent to work on the idea. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, but experience has shown that the more time the project owner can dedicate to the project, the better.

Sometimes you will have to hire new personnel for the project. Our study respondents recommend to not go with part-timers. If someone is not fully involved, it will slow the project down. Another slowdown effect is having numerous budget approval loops and micromanagement. If possible, avoid wasting your precious time with budget approvals and micromanagement. Giving the teams a dedicated budget for each phase and frequent sparring sessions helps them to focus on what matters.

Avoid wasting your precious time with budget approvals and micromanagement. Giving the teams a dedicated budget for each phase and frequent sparring sessions helps them to focus on what matters.

Avoid the pitfalls and be successful with corporate innovation

Starting to incorporate and foster innovation activities in an established company is not easy.
However, with the right management expectations, a healthy failure culture, and giving the project owners enough freedom to develop and operate, it’ll be much easier to start and be successful right from the start.

If you are curious about more interesting corporate innovation insights, check out our Innovation study anddiscover what makes innovation projects and corporate startups successful.

Petra Barbu
SENIOR Growth Architect

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