The 5 Areas You Need To Invest In For Successful Corporate Innovation
This article was written by Emilio Risques Innovation & New Business Vice President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, ASICS
When we talk of innovation we think of Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, these “industry leaders” that seem to be paving the way with new products, disrupting new markets and constantly being at the forefront of change. However, any corporate can innovate, in fact, KPMG’s report on “Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020” had 56% of respondents agreeing that they expect their investment in overall innovation to increase between 2019 and 2020 with only 7% expecting it to decrease. (Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020). Good news! Not only can any corporate disrupt the way we live and work but they’re also budgeting for it too.
Stephanie Creech explores the three paths of innovation that a corporate can take: Incremental, Adjacent and Transformational. (Creech). What the corporate need to decide, as a collective, is how heavily they want to invest in innovation. This is not just a financial investment but people resources, leadership and more. Are you out to improve your product or service with a few small changes? Do you want to disrupt new markets by introducing your product or tweaking it to fit a particular demographic? Or, do you want to look at creating a new industry entirely, one to serve new markets and new customers, much like Uber did with traditional taxis? A corporate needs to decide what level of innovation it can realistically take on and run with it. Nonetheless, innovation is an area that any corporate should be investing in, to some extent, and here are the areas I personally think you’ll need to invest in when considering launching a corporate innovation program.
1.Company Goals & Alignment
If you’re looking to build an R&D or M&A team or shift responsibilities of those teams to include Startup engagement (if they don’t already) then you’ll need to align on goals. There’s a general agreement between corporates, that are new to the innovation world, that politics, turf wars and a lack of company alignment are the biggest blockers when it comes to new innovation initiatives (Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020). If you’re serious about innovation, no matter to what degree, you’ll need to align your company goals so that you don’t run into internal politics, especially when it comes to assigning budgets to teams and departments. Try to be transparent with your company goals and set clear innovation initiatives that align with those.
2. People and Places
William Hait, Global Head of External Innovation at Johnson & Johnson, focuses on building an R&D pipeline that brings in new science and technology from outside partners — including startups and academic institutions. Hait helps to operate a network of four innovation centers around the world. When talking about resources He said: “we supplement [our internal expertise] by engaging experts outside of the company.” (William Hait). By focusing your internal talent on core areas you are able to pick your battles and focus on those. With some of the biggest players in the industry exclaiming their blocker for innovation is access to talent, it’s okay to look at external solutions for adjacent and transformational innovation.
That being said, if you do choose to host your innovation efforts in-house then I have seen it so many times that the team will often physically sit separately from HQ. Whether that’s via an accelerator hub, a coworking space or remotely; it’s often productive for the department to sit “outside the box.” This gives them access to other talented minds, imbeds them in a startup rapid growth mentality or simply allows them to see things differently: all of which are very much needed for successful innovation.
3. Leadership & Culture
Leadership is no stranger to innovation. In 2013, 77% of CEOs claimed innovation was among their top three strategic priorities (Lessons from Leaders). That was 2013! Six years on leaders are still looking towards innovating but now we see a shift as innovation needs to be implemented with company culture in mind. Innovation is no longer something that solely sits within leadership, it is a company-wide initiative and a company-wide culture needs to be implemented for any new venture to truly be successful. Leaders must move forward with a coaching mentality and be open to learning as well as leading (Berthold Baurek-Karlic). I’ve spoken about the importance of Leadership & Culture before but if you want your innovation to be successful (even if you choose to outsource your efforts) your culture needs to be that of nourishment and creating a safe space/s for creativity and new ideas to thrive.
4. Tools & Tech
With Incremental Innovation, customers account for 50% of all new ideas, followed by the Marketing & Sales department and then employees (Creech). So, how do we put a gauge on these ideas? Why do Marketing & Sales follow behind that for new ideas? Well, Marketing & Sales are often the most equipped of all departments when it comes to tracking tools. They’re data-driven departments that have an ear to the ground on the market and what it wants or needs. I cannot stress enough the importance of tools and tech and how heavily you let that lead your innovation efforts. Ideas are great to have but when those ideas are data-driven that’s when you can move forward with more security and confidence. Building on this, as you do start to innovate make sure your team is tracking and measuring your activities so you can constantly optimise your work.
5. Incubators and Accelerators
If you truly want to be at the forefront of innovation within your sector or sectors then hosting incubator and / or accelerator programs can be a huge win. With ASICS we’ve housed 2 batches, a total of 10 startups so far, with our Barcelona based, TenKan-Ten growth catalyst program. It has allowed us to be at the forefront in innovation within the Sports and Well-being space and is delivering against our objective to maintain and increase the “Sound Mind Sound Body” consumer preference in the future. The program aims to be the Tipping Point for the future growth journey of the Startups, connecting them with ASICS, alongside its worldwide ecosystem and distribution network. We’ll work hand in hand to improve consumers’ daily lives, while exploring joint growth, together.
There often tends to be a fear of including externals but I have, first-hand, seen the success that corporate engagement with startups can bring. We have managed to create truly valuable win-win situations and work on projects where each party supports the other in the areas they need or want it most. In facilitating Incubators and Accelerators the Startup benefits from the reach and scale of the global corporate and the corporate engages with the drive, creativity, and agileness of the startup founders and their teams. This combination of knowledge and skill-sets is often the perfect recipe for innovation at its finest.