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Innovation is more urgently necessary than it's ever been. Now, three leading experts on commercializing innovation systematically sort through the wreckage of yesterday's strategies, learning lessons and identifying ideas worth preserving and adapting. To prepare this book, the authors thoroughly examined the record of more than 250 innovation programs from organizations of widely differing sizes and industries, from 1998 through 2003. Based on this unprecedented research, they reveal the right time to use each innovation 'arrow', how to account for contingencies and risks; and how to focus on core innovation challenges -- not just superficial symptoms. Along the way, the authors define a focused, integrated model for innovation: one that is more nuanced and complex, but also better-grounded, more durable, and far more effective.
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Just about everyone in business today loves the idea of innovation as a way to grow revenues and profits. As a result of that interest, there have been a succession of innovation fads and ideas. None of these concepts, however, have proven to be one-size-fits-all or definitively superior. Therefore, instead of trying to find the lone“silver bullet”of innovation, successful companies are now using a mix of different innovation tools and tactics to successfully innovate.
The main elements of this emerging portfolio of innovation options are:
The key to making a portfolio of innovation options work is to link what's being done closely with the core of the business. Innovation choices need to be made in the context of balance and fit with that core rather than in isolation. Juggling the entire portfolio effectively is essential. At various times, specific innovation tools and tactics will come to the fore, while at other times different tools will be better suited. Managing this portfolio and keeping it fine tuned is surely the future of sustainable and beneficial innovation.
Corporate venturing is where an established firm attempts to emulate how a venture capitalist works. The company makes equity investments into outside start-ups or establishes a standalone internal“skunk works”where new ideas can be pursued without interference from the corporate hierarchy.
In the late 1990s, it was widely assumed that corporate venturing would be an imperative. Many companies set up internal business incubators and standalone venture capital funds. By one estimate, $17 billion was invested in 2,150 corporate venture capital deals in 2000 alone. When corporate venturing took off as a fad, almost every large corporation tried some form of corporate venturing. The largest and most prominent were Enron, Xerox and Lucent Technologies—who each lost billions of dollars in shareholder value in the early 2000s. Intel Capital has been one of the most prolific corporate venture capitalists, with some very noteworthy successes. As the losses have piled up with relatively few success stories, most corporations have now abandoned the corporate venturing approach to innovation.
Key Problems with Corporate Venturing
■ Companies poured massive amounts of talent and resources into quasi-autonomous start-ups—which was fine but this did little to enhance innovation elsewhere in the organization.
■ Internal business incubators are good at generating creative ideas but many of these ideas subsequently turn out to be irrelevant to the parent company’s core strategy or business direction.
■ Even when venture capital seeded ideas turn out to have commercial potential, it is usually difficult to integrate the start-up back into the parent.
■ Juggling the demands of a number of new ventures requires a large commitment of time, energy and attention by the parent organization’s management. This can be quite a distraction for most companies.
■ Even when the new start-ups succeed in their own right, their financial results might end up amounting to little more than a rounding error for overall corporate financial performance. It may take a decade or more before a start-up can achieve a scale that will make its results material to those of the parent corporation. Those same resources if used in the business might produce a more immediate performance boost.
Lessons to Learn
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