Secret Recipes for Building & Running a Successful Innovation Program inside of a Large Corporation

by Will Wang — Corporate Innovation Partner at Founders Space

With emerging technologies and startup disruptions, many global multi-national corporations are facing huge challenges for new business innovation. Nowadays, there is a big trend that many corporations are tapping into startup ecosystem, as they are seeking startup knowledge, new technologies and open collaborations, in order to stay at the forefront of innovation. Especially, many industry leading players proactively look for digital transformation into a high-tech, software integrated and data-driven service company. Therefore, many corporations started to seek out strategic partnerships for launching a successful innovation program. Here are six critical recipes for building and running a successful innovation program inside of a large corporation.

Step 1: Set program’s target sectors and key focus areas that are aligned with corporate business strategies

First and foremost, the innovation program must aim to solve the most critical problems that the corporation is facing in specific target fields, and help to identify new opportunities for driving the next explosive and sustainable growth. For example, the corporation can select IoT and Big Data as their target sectors, and leverage IoT and Big Data to improve both customer experience and internal operation efficiency, as well as re-invent their business model. The goal is to help corporations continuously develop breakthrough new products and services, in order to maintain their market leader position.

Step 2: Build your innovation training program & startup toolkit

It is essential to develop a tailored innovation training plan built-in within your program, which ensures your innovation teams have the fundamental startup knowledge and skills to perform their jobs. Also, building an internal open-sharing startup learning resources is essential, so your teams can access to all the basic startup tools and templates such as lean startup canvas, business model canvas, MVP development canvas and pitch deck templates, which makes it easy for them to develop and execute their projects.

Step 3: Recruit the right talents on board

Working closely with your HR department to attract and recruit the right type of people joining the program should be your No. 1 priority for your innovation program, because your innovation teams are the most valuable assets for the success of your program. Many companies spend too much time on figuring out the right ideas to build, but the project ended up with failure due to team’s low engagement and poor execution. However, you need to focus on building the guidelines for internal innovation teams, including talents qualifications, idea team structure, team selection process and performance measurement criteria. Once you selected the right people leading the projects, even when they started with the wrong idea at the beginning, they would quickly learn through experiments and pivot to the right direction due to excellent team execution throughout the innovation process.

Step 4: Set the right KPIs to foster the culture of innovation

It is essential to build a playful and experimental culture for your innovation team. Therefore, you must set the right performance metrics in order to drive the right behaviors that will shape the innovation culture. The quality of innovation is based on the innovation cycle, the faster you can go through the cycle, the better you innovate. Here are the three core metrics for driving your innovation teams’ performance:

  • Quality Data

It is important to measure how well do your teams engage with the customers. So capturing high quality customer data and feedback are the evidence of excellent customer engagement.

  • Critical Insights

After data collection, your innovation teams need to analyze these data to measure what really works and what doesn’t work, so they can gain deep insights that will drive business growth. These insights are strong indicators of whether or not your teams are moving into the right direction.

  • Speed of Iteration

As we know, moving fast is startup’s No.1 assets. Therefore, once your teams gained unique insights, it is important to react and execute on these insights as fast as you can, in order to push your projects forward. Many projects failed is because the leaders are hesitant to take actions, and afraid of failure.

Step 5: Map out startup project incubation sessions and key challenges

Set a clear and structured roadmap for project incubation is critical for effectively tracking and managing your project progress. Key incubation sessions include customer engagement, MVP development, market validation, business model analysis, market evaluation, go-to-market strategy and pitch presentation. Each session has a list of key criteria for teams to achieve before they can move on to the next session. However, each project has its own unique challenges, so different projects may prioritize each session differently based on their business needs.

Step 6: Connect your innovation program with external startup ecosystem for open collaborations

It is important to build an open innovation ecosystem (called Network Effect) through connecting your program to external startup resources, which include startups, investors, mentors, domain experts, corporate partners and other key business stakeholders. This highly collaborative working environment enables your teams focus on what they do best, and outsource other key business functions through the ecosystem. The key objective here is to bring more value and resources to your internal innovation teams through external startup engagement and strategic partnerships, so they can stay more nimble and efficient for their future product development and business innovation.

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