Can money buy innovation? Is corporate innovation difficult or easy?
Innovation is just like happiness! No matter how powerful or rich you are, you can’t buy innovation. Corporate innovation, especially, is very difficult to acquire.
Let’s first begin with the definition of innovation. Innovation is to bring profitable and creative solutions to the problems and needs of potential customers. It begins with discovering the correct problems or needs. Usually, those pseudo entrepreneurs first come up with a product, and then try to attach a problem and a target market to the product. This doesn’t work! This is a common pitfall of the corporate firms.
One day, a poor employee at a Telco firm in the UK, trying to meet the reveneue objectives, comes up with a so-called “innovative” idea. “Let’s build a new app!” Here is what happens a day before:
Manager: “Hey Anna! It seems like you are not gonna meet the AOP during the next couple of months. Think of an alternative revenue generator or otherwise…”
Anna goes on the web and Googles the following: disruptive mobile telco apps, innovation in telco services
Right there! She finds an “innovative” telco app example from Papua New Guinea and convinces herself that it’ll definitely work in the UK, thus helping her meet the revenue objectives. With a fancy presentation including market sizing, business model alternatives and revenue calculations, she succeeds in convincing her manager as well. But wait? Isn’t that app providing a local solution for Papua New Guinea? Are there even any early adapters for such an app in the UK? Is there such a need? Does it solve any significant problem for the UK people? Ooops… “No” to all!
This is a very common story in the corporate life, especially in tech companies. All CEOs and companies claim that they’re investing in innovation, but we haven’t seen many sucessful results yet.
It’s understandable. If you are a company with hundreds of employees, then it’s very unlikely that you’ll take big risks like start-ups. Also, in genereal, people at the top of the pyramid concentrate on defending the revenue streams and increasing revenue. Unlike acqusitive and risk taking entrepreneurs, corporate employees are defensive. The more defensive the mindset, the more the executive team wants to defend the revenue, the more difficult it is to innovate.
Suppose, you are working in an extremely visionary firm that really values innovation. You’ve encountered a serious need in your customers and have found a great solution to the need. You go through the lean period, decide on your hypothesis, go the market, make tests… You’ve come to the conclusion that your idea has a good potential in the means of audience and revenue. Ooops! You have to create a proposal and get included in the queue for the development roadmap. This takes around a month. It seems like the tech team will begin the development in 2 months and work on it for 4 months. Another 2 months needed for the tests… In 9 months industries, trends and consumer habits change!
Revenue concerns, corporate processes, resource allocation, prioritizations, defensive mindset and arbitrary actions to save the day make corporate innovation very unlikely. It’s irrational to expect innovative and disruptive ideas from regular employees. Therefore, such companies should definitely etablish entrepreneurship and new business departments, and hire young people with entrepreneurial spirit. Another option is to fund start-ups and do business together.