I recently had Innosight Managing Director Scott Anthony guest on the Future Squared podcast and we riffed on all things corporate innovation, or being an entrepreneur inside a large, established organisation.
In his time with Innosight, Scott has advised senior leaders in companies such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, SingTel, Kraft, General Electric, LG, the Ayala Group, and Cisco Systems on topics of growth and innovation. He has extensive experience in emerging markets, particularly in India, China, and the Philippines.
You can listen to the conversation on the Future Squared podcast below and wherever you get your podcasts, but if podcasts aren’t your thing and you instead prefer the written word, you’ll find 35 lessons on corporate innovation from the episode below. ✌
It has never easier to start a business but paradoxically that just means that it’s really hard to scale a business because you’re constantly fighting copycats.
Large companies that can figure out how to leverage assets at scale by leveraging startup practices can have market-changing impact
Innovation happens at the intersections — whether that be at the intersection of disciplines or the intersection fo corporate muscle and startup speed.
Startup companies will always be faster and more nimble than established companies.
Dual Transformation: reposition today’s business whilst creating tomorrow’s.
Creating tomorrow’s business requires new metrics, a different mindset and organisational design.
Foundationally, large companies have got the get the underlying environment right to truly support dual transformation.
The only way to get a billion dollars added to the P&L in the next 12 months is through acquisition and that will be priced accordingly and the immediate ROI will likely be low — if you set the hurdle very high point it will inevitably point to established markets with large competitors that are not all that interesting.
On corporate innovation, there is no short answer, no silver bullet, no quick fix, if looking for it, look somewhere else.
Large organisations conflate innovation with ideas instead of genuine value creation and when entrepreneurial talent catch on to this they will leave in search of organisations that go beyond ideation and move to thoughtful execution
On taking many small bets, yes but don’t just explore randomness — map out strategic opportunity areas, corporate moonshots and areas to explore, then micro-experiment within these areas.
On risk aversion at large companies: “If you’ve got nothing you got nothing to lose “- Bob Dylan.
Inside / Outside CEOs: They combine the outside with the inside — such as Satya Nadella who combined his cloud background with Microsoft or DBS Bank in Singapore whose CEO combined his startup experience with his banking experience.
On biases: These are inevitable — some people will have a bias for data, others for experimentation, others for market research. People’s functions will correlate with their bias — eg. finance with data.
We are all human beings, ergo we are all curious and creative. It’s inside everybody but it’s constrained by context and it can be unleashed by giving people space, tools, training and practice. It won’t make them Elon Musk but it will make them measurably and demonstrably better.
Corporate innovation leaders need courage.
Organisations need curiosity.
Having a story, a vision or a narrative is absolutely key — proof points and leading indicators will get you buy-in and patience. “Trust me” simply isn’t enough.
Analytical selling is wrong (eg. Excel spreadsheets and 100-page Powerpoint plans). What’s more effective is doing what startups do with small experiments that can be performed for little to no investment. Show, don’t tell.
In the early stages, prioritise learning not earning metrics because results still matter even on innovation projects, particularly because there is so much institutional pessimism — be modest in the expectations you set then overdeliver!
You need to change the conversation with leadership in order to avoid setting yourself up for failure.
Fail quickly, fail cheaply.
If it’s a small failure and you learned something valuable then that’s a good thing.
If your organisation doesn’t support your entrepreneurialism, leave.
Avoid working for companies who need a burning platform — which ultimately means jump and pray or stand still and burn.
The most underutilised source of energy in the world isn’t the sun, wind or waves — it’s our organisations and their people.
Use models as Lee Kuan Yew did as the first Prime Minister of Singapore, smartly copying what worked in other countries and appropriating it for Singapore’s nuances.
Beware the MVP hangover — stop skipping steps and thinking that there is no value in thinking!
The lean startup works when capital is scarce when abundant perhaps we shouldn’t be as lean.
Any idea taken to extremes has its downsides.
Practice ‘strong opinions, weakly held’.
There is no truth, there is only more right based on the evidence we have — eg. the Black Swan theory.
What got you here won’t get you there (on success as a manager of what already exists versus success as an creator of what doesn’t yet exist).
Solving mysteries can be an enduring source of energy and enthusiasm for your work.
Integrate your professional life and personal life. Children can be a great source of learning and push your frontiers of thinking. Have kids andspend time with them.
For more value bombs like these subscribe to the Future Squared podcast.
The WorkFlow podcast is hosted by Steve Glaveski with a mission to help you unlock your potential to do more great work in far less time, whether you're working as part of a team or flying solo, and to set you up for a richer life.
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100 DOS AND DON'TS FOR CORPORATE INNOVATION
To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.
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