Choosing the Right Corporate Innovation Model

  • by Wouter Kracht

    Innovation Consultant

Innovation is hot right now. Large, established companies and startups alike are actively pursuing new business & change. Startups, more agile than their incumbent counterpart are delivering scores of novelty to the market. Larger companies are struggling to keep up their innovation game and are trying on various programs in an attempt to find the best way to change course and reach similar, if not better results than their smaller, tooth-sprouting brothers.

We've had multiple requests from companies asking about THE best way to enable corporate innovation. We have had the luxury to set up, facilitate and manage various corporate innovation programs and models all over the world, from the financial sector to medical startup scene. So we would like to give you some of our insights.

Let's start by saying there is no the best way to unleash a company-wide innovation force. Rephrase this one…there is no one-size fits all solution or one route to go to innovation-Rome for the matter of overemphasizing.

There are multiple models and programs all aimed at reaching their innovative goals. We have identified 10 innovation models, credits to amongst others Crowd Companies for the neat overview in the table below.

Saying all this, there are four common misconceptions when it comes to being lean that should be cleared out next:

The Ten Types of Corporate Innovation Models & Programs

View them here

Differences and similarities

Next to the distinguishable differences, plenty similarities are easily spotted:

  • Most programs run a form of protection to the corporate immune system to create a safe haven for radical innovation;
  • All programs demand dedicated attention from the involved staffing;
  • Thinking in cohorts, theme-wise innovation;
  • There is an outside-in focus. Or as we would like to say, location, location, location has been replaced by network, network, network;
  • All programs focus at decreasing the risk of individual projects.

Many of these models don’t exclude each other and can be run in parallel. What is hot and buzzing right now is the corporate accelerator program. There have never been more. Companies decide to divest in external accelerator programs and start to work with internal innovation teams or incubator programs for that matter. They have learned the trick from external parties and are now doing it themselves. Reasons are various, but mostly to change the focus from expensive sponsoring to leveraging own capacities. Startups are coming to specialized desks of the companies anyway next to the external accelerators. Another reason is that in most external acceleration programs, competitors stick together, while in an internal program you don’t have to share the insights with anyone except yourself. Possible risks associated with this change are a possibly smaller innovation pool to tap into (because you need to manage and market the innovation network yourself) and less radical innovation leading to new business models.

Currently, we have a personal preference for a combination of programs, like innovation tours to get the entrepreneurial mindset right, university and technology partners for research, internal teams in an internal innovation hothouse to improve the innovation culture and for the radical bit a laser focused accelerator program.

Now what will you do…?

As there are different models and programs to choose, it is important to connect the company vision with the innovation goals of your team. Just going to buzzing Hong Kong or having employees embedded in an accelerator as entrepreneurs-in-residence doesn't cut it. All cool, but the multiplier effect will not be there. We typically advise companies to visualize the different models and create scenarios of the possible outcomes. Based on that, you can pivot one or two models. In the end, we see that the best fit is typically there for those who have both an aligned innovation vision from the board and the willingness to deepdive a model and experience both the good and lesser points of a model. Again, a model is just a reflection of reality. So, you have to choose and probably tweak it to your own needs.

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