Time and time again, I bump into a C-level or manager of an MNC and start chatting about innovating in large organizations.
“So, what do you do?” — asks the other person
“I help large organizations create meaningful innovation programs.”—I reply.
“Oh, great! We are launching an incubator program.” — they come back with excitement.
“I know.” — I say unamusedly.
“How do you know?” — they ask.
“Cos everybody is doing it. It’s like coke in the 70s. Many people are doing it, so everybody starts doing it because it looks like a good idea. Then one day you wake up with a large chunk of your money spent and you have no idea how you got there.”
What’s wrong with corporate incubators/accelerators?
There is nothing particularly wrong with them, however, they are very inefficient at getting innovation into the organization. The problem is that many organizations start incubators and accelerators without understanding what these programs are good for and what it takes to run them.
So, what do you need to run an incubator or an accelerator?
- A big budget
- Thorough knowledge of the startup ecosystem
- Great network among startups and investors
- Knowing who are the good mentors
- Knowing the needs of startups at different stages of their lifecycle
- Amazing branding and marketing team dedicated to the program
And what is it good for?
- Branding & PR
- Helping innovation culture within the organization (if done well)
However, it is typically not good for rolling out new innovative products and services. It’s good for seeming innovative, but not for being innovative.
Then what’s the solution?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are numerous ways of innovating in a large organization, each with different purposes.
For PR, for culture or for actually bringing innovative products to market.
Accelerators and incubators happen to be one of the most complicated and quite expensive models.
“…and if you’re gonna start a corporate accelerator you’re gonna get punched in the mouth again, and again, and again, because it turns out that this is really hard.” Lou Kerner, Rise and fall of corporate accelerators, TEDxNavesink.
You should explore different options before making a decision: innovation lab, startup-as-a-service, venture clienting and a bunch of other models are there to choose from. Just make sure that it is right for your goals, for your organization’s resources, and that you have a good understanding of what it takes to run each type of program.
Have any questions? Shoot!
Here goes a high-five just because you read the article, and you’re awesome: