Beginning the corporate innovation journey: The view from Silicon Valley

If you’re at the beginning of your journey into the world of corporate innovation, here are some things to consider as you frame your new strategy. 

The will to innovate

Building innovation into a company’s culture and DNA has to come from the highest level.

Your board, CEO and executive leadership team all need to embody the will to innovate. Some questions that you can ask as you determine where your organization sits today: 

  • Is there a burning desire and passion for change from these three groups?
  • Where is there alignment, and where are there some incongruencies?
  • Is the organization structure setup to support this new way of thinking and approach?
  • What communication channels exist to share this new vision and does it extend beyond the executive leadership to the frontline employees?

From here you can determine how to implement, or update, the corporate culture in order to support the execution of your innovation strategy. 

Embrace ambiguity

This is a tough one because we all want to know the potential outcome before we spend time, money and resources. Unfortunately, that isn’t entirely possible when you’re working on innovation. 

That doesn’t mean that you have to sign up for a marathon when you’re really only ready for a walk around the neighbourhood - there are baby steps you can take as you begin to lean into this new world: 

  • Start by learning - read about technology trends in your sector, as well as the hot areas such as AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning), IoT (internet of things), VR (virtual reality), blockchain etc.
  • Be open to the unknown - the one thing that doesn’t cost you anything is to accept the fact that the business you operate today may very well not keep you in business in the future.
  • Pick a few (no more than three) areas to focus on first - I suggest you pick the more “bite-size” areas or the low hanging fruit where there can be some quick wins and learnings. Don’t try to boil the ocean on the first pass.

What if there were no limits? 

If there were no parameters in place and you had a complete white canvas, what would you offer your customer? Would it be a new product or service? A new experience? A new tool that would remove friction or delight them?

Some things for you to consider: 

Do research: what are other companies doing and how are they doing it? Be sure to look at the global landscape and not just in your own area or country. 

Think about the customer experience: ever heard of an experience map? It’s like an artifact that serves to illuminate the complete experience a person may have with a product or service. This is a great tool to get you to think outside of the box.

Think in terms of experiences and not products: the next generation of consumers thinks differently—especially if you’re in a more traditional industry such as insurance, construction, banking and energy. The experience map can really help as you develop muscles to imagine what would make you stand out in front of your customer.

At the end of the day you have to know what role you want your company to play in the experience your consumer is having with you. From there you can work backwards to implement the changes needed to play that leading, or supporting, role.