In or Out Corporate Innovation


Corporate Innovation on life-support. What’s an Innovator to do?

It’s no secret, that in today’s internet-speed environment, “innovate or be amazon-ed” is the new mantra. But, according to a PwC report, nearly three-quarters of businesses admit that they are not out-innovating their competitors.

Much of Internal Corporate Innovation continues to look more like ‘Theatre Innovation’ than the real deal. The flaws: too siloed, too insular, too slow to adapt, too many sign-offs, too many hurdles; the internal constraints go on and on.

When Scott Emmons, Neiman Marcus’ head of innovation left the company (in early 2019), he wrote an op-ed on his departure: “Processes are broken, execution is too slow, politics stalls decision-making and resources are too scarce.”

We, at The Innovation Scout, have been on all sides of this equation – Corporate Strategy & Ops, Innovation Consultants, Serial Entrepreneurs for Start-ups, Emerging Tech SMEs, etc.; so, for us; the picture is pretty clear. Corporations were created to be ‘faster, better, cheaper’ around core products and processes, not to come up with disruptive ideas that derail and cannibalize. The Business Units of these corporations have a vested interest in status quo. The execs who lead the BUs are climbing the corp ladder, guided and incentivized by success of their offerings. Add to that, they are generally well represented in innovation governance and they control most of the discretionary budget. It all adds up to the perfect environment for stasis.

To be fair, there are exceptions. Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop program is a notable example. In a rare move, P&G built a program around open innovation that actually highlighted the company’s pain points and untapped opportunities. Using these highlights, P&G leveraged outside talent and emerging technologies to solve for gaps and solutions. Rather than exhausting internal resources on R&D, the Connect + Develop program allows P&G to put out an open call for new ideas from innovators and patent-holders that already have a notable level of expertise in that particular space. This allowed P&G to create a platform that could identify and engage with innovative resources outside the companies own competencies.

Herein is the corporations answer to the innovation dilemma: Start thinking, engaging and creating outside the company. In our opinion, corporations should stop trying to make innovation happen solely from within, where it is clearly not working. Instead, they should partner with an external innovation resource that can provide a shorter, more efficient route to innovation success.

External resources have the benefit of sitting outside the challenge. They benefit from a perspective, not tethered to internal opinions, architecture, and legacy – in short, a more holistic view. Approaching innovation from “the outside in” will open a new vantage; providing a number of new tools and benefits that corporations can incorporate into their strategy. Here are some things to consider:

1. Added resources for speed and agility  

It’s much easier for external partners to navigate the corporate ecosystem while keeping an agile and nimble mindset. If a new concept is not performing well, outside innovators can quickly move on to the next idea without being constrained by internal bureaucracy.

2. New Processes

Outside resources can bring agile processes into an organization. Take Proof-of-Concept (POC) for example. Forget slow, plodding pilots. With today’s POC expertise, a company can create a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) within 100 days of ideation. Designing, Developing and Testing with internal and customer input along the way.

3. Subject Matter Expertise (SME)

An innovation partner has the ability to form a deeper talent pool that is laser-focused on what’s needed for the brand to get to the next level. Instead of recycling ideas internally, a dedicated team can offer fresh perspectives and cater to creativity.

While the team may vary from industry veterans and strategists to developers and creatives, a standalone innovation environment empowers a core group of people who are consistently working collaboratively to yield the highest performing, next-generation innovations.

Thinking about innovation from the outside-in may be just what the legacy corp innovation group needs to stay relevant in today’s fast-paced, “innovate or be disrupted” environment.