Archive for July, 2016


The Ten Types of Corporate Innovation Programs

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Large, established companies are trying on various programs to foster new innovations in an attempt to find the best way to change course for their big ships.

These established companies are struggling to keep up with fast-paced, venture-backed startups that are changing customer expectations — and often causing business model disruption for traditional businesses. To combat this ever-growing threat, corporations are stepping up their investments in innovation and deploying a variety of strategies, as outlined in the following table.

As founder of Crowd Companies, an Innovation Council, we work directly with these innovation teams and have been able to observe and document these types of programs. Often, companies are combining strategies and deploying multiple efforts at any given time. In our upcoming research report on the topic of corporate innovation, we will document how the top companies are leading the charge.

To provide some context for this new corporate innovation, note that we discovered companies are not just investing in incremental product features or enhancements; they are investing in new business models or altering the customer experience beyond the core product.

The Ten Types of Corporate Innovation Programs:

Strategy Description Example
1: Dedicated Innovation Team Corporations often start with staffing an innovation team within the company of full time employees dedicated to developing the strategy, managing, and activating innovation programs. These leaders are experts at internal communications, and are change agents. MasterCard, Hallmark, and BMW have innovation teams dedicated to new business ideas.
2: Innovation Center of Excellence Innovation can’t happen in a single group; without broader institutional digestion, new ideas will falter and fall. Some corporations are setting up cross-functional, multi-disciplinary groups to share knowledge throughout the company. Various retailers and consumer packaged goods companies enable this.
3: Intrapreneur Program Rather than rely solely on external programs, internal employees — dubbed “intrapreneurs” — are given a platform and resources to innovate. These programs invest in employees’ ideas and passions to unlock everything from customer experience improvements to product enhancements and full-blown internal startups that are then launched from within the company. Adobe’s Kickbox program is widely recognized as the leading program; we’ve documented it here.
4: Open Innovation: Hosted Accelerator or Corporate Incubator Hosted inside a corporate office, large corporations invite startups to embed at their physical locations and provide them funding, corporate support, and other perks. This brings innovative startups inside a large company for everything from overnight hackathons to long-term programs. Other variations include online open-innovation programs that request — and often reward — ideas from the crowd. Allianz Digital Labs in Munich hosts startups, and GE Garages enables startups to partner.
5: Innovation Tours Frequently inspiration comes from outside, not within. Corporate leaders tour innovative organizations, companies, and regions to discover trends in various industries, learn from speakers, meet partners, and be inspired as they immerse themselves in innovation culture. European-based WDHB and Nexxworks tour executives in Silicon Valley and beyond –I’m a frequent speaker at their events.
6: Innovation Outpost A dedicated physical office, such as in Silicon Valley or wherever innovation happens in their market, staffed with corporate innovation professionals whose job is to sense what’s occurring in a market, connect with local startups, and integrate programs back into the corporate HQ. Some of them host partners, events, and startups, thereby spreading the function to Internal Accelerator programs. An Innovation Outpost is typically managed by employees — unlike an External Accelerator, which is run by a third party. Swisscom, Vodafone, and Nestle have opened Silicon Valley outposts. Read Evangelos Simoudis’ blog for insights.
7: External Accelerator Corporations partner with third-party accelerators to provide sponsorship and/or funding in exchange for relationships with startups and integration opportunities. Corporate innovation professionals often embed themselves in Accelerator offices, fostering relationships with local startups. These External Accelerators are run by third parties — unlike Innovation Outposts, which are managed by employees. Plug and Play, Singularity University, Rocketspace, Runway, 500 Startups, Betaworks, and more.
8: Technology Education, University Partnership Corporations can tap into new graduates, early-stage projects and companies, and the network of an established educational institution. In addition to traditional universities, there are new private versions opening up that are dedicated solely to technology training, like Galvanize and General Assembly. General Assembly, Galvanize, and most tech- or business-focused universities.
9: Investment Many corporations place bets among the startup ecosystem, with both small amounts for early-stage startups and larger amounts of corporate funding that yields market data, creates opportunities for follow-on investments, and blocks competitors. Intel Capital is a leader in direct corporate investments.
10: Acquisition Rather than build innovation from the inside, many corporations acquire successful startups and then integrate. While often expensive, the startup is often already successful, and the acquisition can help the startup scale further. As one example, Dollar Shave Club was purchased by Unilever for a reported $1B.

Above, we published a full report on this topic in March, 2017, embedded above.

In summary, corporations don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to helping their company activate new ways of doing business. They will deploy multiple forms, at different times, with varying degrees of success.

What’s very interesting is that a majority of these examples are “outside-in” innovation, where companies are drawing knowledge, resources, or expertise from groups outside their own company.

Because most of these programs rely on external innovations, organizational alignment is key to helping companies digest market changes.

Stay tuned for further insights as we prepare to publish our report on corporate innovation this fall, and please leave a comment if we’ve left out a strategy — or need to modify an existing one.

Update: Additional tips from Savannah Peterson

(Photo from Pexels)

“BMW Welcomes” Explores the Future of Mobility (Video)

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What moves us tomorrow?

That’s the question BMW posed to its expert speakers at BMW Welcomes, held at BMW Welt in Munich, Germany, on June 23. where I served as emcee of event. BMW Welcomes gathers transportation futurists from around the globe to examine topics from Hyperloop to space travel.

In this video you’ll learn:

  • What is the future of mobility?
  • How is the space industry going to enable change?
  • How will Hyperloop going to change transportation?
  • And more.

What ensued was riveting conversation about the future of mobility and how major automotive players and international technology innovators are rethinking car ownership in favor of new transportation innovation and sharing behaviors. The Collaborative Economy will play a role, though it’s only a starting point for change. The future goes beyond self-driving cars, holding promise for a complete transformation of all aspects of society and transportation.

Event speakers included:

  • Frank Salzgeber, Head of Technology Transfer Program Office, European Space Agency
  • Daniel Wiegand, Startup presentation: Lilium aviation
  • Dirk Ahlborn, CEO Hyperloop
  • Mariana Avezum, Startup presentation: WARR Hyperloop
  • Oliver Heilmer, Head of Interior Design BMW, BMW Group

BMW defines “Future Mobility” as the way we will transport ourselves in the future by significantly increasing range, speed, and acceleration of our journeys, while simultaneously reducing cost and environmental damage. Watch the entire event below for more insight into the projects that will shape our lives forever.