So Many Corporate Innovation Labs, So Little Innovation
Saul Kaplan

Having spent the last few years working with large enterprises on these issues, I agree with your list and would add a few:

  • having seen the interesting work IDEO does, they staff their labs with smart “design thinkers” but are missing the entrepreneurial “ship it and make it work” personalities. It doesn’t matter how talented a team is — if it doesn’t have this mini-CEO role, any adjacent or disruptive concept will fail.
  • they have thought through what it might take to generate ideas but not how to nurture and scale them. Where does growth capital come from? How to insulate fledgling ideas from enterprise rules and enterprise meddling (even well-intentioned) from legal, IT, finance, marketing/PR, HR, etc. Aside: this is why I talk about “studios” rather than “labs.” The word labs connotes R&D only, but you need to minimize all handoffs in making an idea real.
  • they struggle to wrap their head around just how much investment in time and money is required to develop new things, even with a very rigorous process.
  • the labs themselves are set up with too much fanfare. Without a high level of transparency, humility and outreach, innovation groups merely create enemies and thus lose one of their key competitive advantages: parent co resources.

Personally, I’d like to see more company’s experiment with creating innovation studios as wholly owned LLCs, with the ideas underneath also separately incorporated once they pass initial testing. Not only would this provide some insulation from the parent company, but it would allow team members to have equity at an idea level, and give the parent co optionality as to whether to spin ideas back in, keep as wholly owned subs, or sell and re-invest proceeds back into the innovation engine.

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