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What is Corporate Innovation? 

In 2016, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos sent out a fantastic letter to his shareholders in which he described why Amazon strives to always be a Day 1 company. He attributes Amazon's success both to high-velocity decision making and to resisting proxies, never relying on the process and not the outcomes. In other words, Amazon is in constant corporate innovation mode in that it is constantly eliminating and streamlining processes and creating new plans, products, and solutions. Innovation in corporate world is never being satisfied and always seeking new ways to answer the question, "what do my customers want?" 

Now, how your company answers that question may differ and the paths you strike out towards corporate innovation will differ. For some, a corporate innovation accelerator or investing in corporate innovation startups might be the answer. While others need to turn inwards and shake up their senior team. The following article takes a broad look at what is corporate innovation and ways in which your company can make innovation strategies a success. 

Driving Innovation in Large Corporations

While Amazon may be one of the best examples of how innovation can succeed in a large corporation, the truth is that many large corporations struggle with innovation -- especially when they try to fix things by simply throwing money at in-house innovation labs. The reason why innovation labs fail like this is because of how firms internally develop innovation labs. They do so for the wrong reasons; thinking that creating a new department is as simple as checking a box or creating a 'process' that equal success. But as noted by Bezos, processes are not laurels upon which to rest. 

Instead, driving innovation in large corporations must be a more sustained aspect of business with sound strategies that evolve with the business itself. Strategies that do not rest. 

Corporate Innovation Strategy

Corporate innovation strategies generally fall within two groups: Open and closed. As the names suggest, an open corporate innovation strategy seeks ideas from outside the company while a closed corporate innovation strategy seeks ideas and improvements from within the company itself. 

For many years, the closed innovation strategy reigned and led to some major successes, such as the iPhone and Amazon Prime. However, keeping innovation strictly internal can be risky, especially for corporations still growing. In contrast, open strategies like an external acceleration are lower-risk with set expenses that have the potential to reap in huge rewards. 

Corporate Innovation Models

Whether you choose to go with a closed or open model or opt to mix things up, there are a number of good corporate innovation models and corporate innovation examples to follow. Two tried and true examples of closed innovation models include an in-house corporate accelerator program and a dedicated innovation team. Good examples of open innovation models and corporate innovation trends include external accelerators and innovation outposts (which was one of the hotter innovation trends 2018). 

Innovation Accelerators

Did you notice that accelerators fit both in the open and closed models? To understand why, first one needs to know what is an innovation accelerator and corporate accelerator are, in other words the innovation accelerator definition.

Accelerators, as the name implies, are groups in which larger corporations have invested finances and mentorship in order for the groups to achieve significantly expedited growth. For example, what might take a traditional business 18 months to do may be possible within four months thanks to the right investment of experience, funds, and other resources. 

Big corporations like Disney, Google, and Barclays all have launched and continue to launch their own internal corporate accelerator programs that focus directly on new business goals or challenges. However, it's important to note that such large corporations can afford the big investment and high risks of establishing and funding in-house accelerators. For others, an open or external accelerator program or bringing in corporate innovation companies and innovation consulting services that have more experienced corporate innovation tools makes more sense. With an external innovation accelerator, a corporation does not front the full costs of a program and thus equates to a lower-risk. 

Innovation Programs

Accelerators are great, but they are only the top of the iceberg when it comes to solid innovation program ideas. Corporate innovation consulting, corporate innovation labs, and creating corporate innovation teams are all other great types of innovation programs. Today, specialized corporate innovation agency programs can help match corporations with the right innovation program and professionals. 

Corporate Innovation Jobs

In fact, so many corporations are investing in both open and closed models of corporate innovation, that there is an exciting array of corporate innovation jobs and career paths available with exciting innovation consulting salary options in this fast-paced and engaging arena. And innovation consulting jobs aren't just in the for-profit area as just last year, Dallas posted this ad looking for a Chief Innovation Officergovernment role. Other cities that are offering similar chief innovation officer jobs include Sacramento, Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Louisville with their primary objective being to define an innovation strategy and ensure it is properly executed. This chief innovation officer job description is the same for those who opt to work for for-profit corporations or on a board of innovation for a large non-profit organization. The chief innovation officer salary can vary wildly depending upon where and for whom the position is for. The difference between a chief innovation officer vs a chief product officer is that the latter tends to look at what direction current products should go for consumers while the former studies consumers with chief innovation officer goals being finding what products need to exist for them. 

But while chief innovation officer jobs might be the ones most talked about on places like chief innovation officer Forbes advertisements, this position isn't the only lucrative on in the innovation consulting jobs niche. Other interesting positions include corporate innovation consultants and the Change Agent, which is a position that focuses on the HR aspect of innovation in that their role is to motive personnel and set up a structure that supports innovation and transformation. For those who are more technical-minded, there is the Innovation Engineer position. Those in this position are generally tasked with the lead on the creation of new tech prototypes and concepts. Depending upon the nature of the parent company, they may also be tasked with how to market and get new concepts and products to consumers. 

Corporate Innovation Labs 

Sometimes it doesn't make sense for a corporation to hire a new team or create a new innovation department. So instead they invest in the best innovation centers and labs.

An innovation lab or center is a co-working space that offers start-ups and professionals support from corporate partners so that they can focus on areas on innovation. Design and innovation consulting firms may either being strategically goal-focused for a certain niche or corporate area, or they may be more fluid and open to experimentation. 

Big names in the top 10 innovation labs around the world and those you are likely to hit when you Google innovation lab include:

  • Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Located in Silicon Valley, this is an open innovation center that has partnered with startups, government agencies, and Fortune 500 corporations.
  • Boston Dynamics. This is a spin-off group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is renown for providing an extraordinary technical team of scientists and engineers for those corporations in need of young and bold tech-oriented innovations and solutions. 
  • Intel Labs. Intel Labs is focused primarily focused on science and technological innovations, enabling corporations and other groups to seamlessly work with and sponsor leading researchers and scientists around the world. 

Innovation Consulting 

For those groups and corporations who don't want to create their own in-house innovation programs and don't want to invest in innovation labs or centers, there is one other great option that keeps costs and risks low with the potentiality of big money and efficiency: Innovation consulting firms. 

What is innovation consulting about? This type of innovation creation relies on corporations or organizations hiring outside individuals or agencies to come in, take a look at current struggles, desired goals, or general situations in order to come up with new opportunities or ideas for new products or services. RocketSpace corporate innovation and co-working facilities is a great example of this. RocketSpace offers full innovation consulting in which it works directly with their clients in order to identify areas of opportunity and help match up startups or accelerator labs that can help clients meet their goals. RocketSpace is based in California, but you'll find such groups all around the world. From innovation consulting firms NYC to innovation consultancy London and innovation consulting firms in India. 

What makes innovation consulting agencies so valuable is that they don't just come up with ideas for a company -- they come up with ideas and they find ways to make them operational. It's this latter part, operationalizing ideas, that is tough and why innovating consulting firms bring such big value to the table. This means taking an idea and making it come to life in a manner that will save the company money or bring in more money to the table via a new product, service, or opening up to a new customer market. 

As the pace of innovation quickens, it's harder than ever to compete and win. High Alpha Innovation can be a critical partner to help you accelerate your corporate innovation initiatives. Our corporate partners join us in each step of the business creation cycle, building new businesses together. If you'd like to learn more, visit our Corporate Innovation page.

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