Innovation, Enterprises and Digital Labs
In a near feature all companies will become software companies, but meanwhile, is the mindset of corporations and medium-sized organizations leaning towards innovation and digital transformation?
What is Innovation?  Innovation is a sudden spark or creativity and the incipient action that lead to implementing that spark into a company’s strategy. Innovation requires encouragement, collaboration, communication and clear steps to implement the transformation that follows up the innovation. Innovation should be something new that brings value and meets demand from employees, customers, and partners.
- Innovation & Enterprises
- Innovation & Labs
Innovation & Enterprises
Although the conversation with start-ups has already begun and the agile way of thinking has been digested, for most organizations is still challenging, in practical terms, to embrace innovation. One simple reason is that the complexity of their structure and hierarchy doesn't allow to absorb changes fast. The other, is because they use to let the technology drives rather than business and consumer’s needs. The focus is often addressed to understand the technology and how can be applied to the status quo, rather than asking what is the problem that needs to be solved. Organizations usually start investigating the capabilities of the technology rather than asking themselves:
- What are the problems that would lean towards, and potentially, being solved by the technology?
- Is there a real human problem and this technology could actually meet the need?
- Which is the use case scenario where customers (internal or external) are interacting with the product, or service, using the underlined technology?
Technology goes fast, and it is undoubtedly challenging to keep the same velocity, but paradoxically, organizations try to figure out complex technology like blockchain when a bunch of industries still have paper data and manual processes (not digitalized  yet). This is the typical example where the challenge doesn’t reside into the specific technology but in the struggle of the organizations to adopt a business first approach and to follow a customer-centric way of thinking. As a matter of fact, innovation fits best when technology, business, and customer-centric design intersect. This combination is not easily achievable and it comes with organizational dynamics built through the years within the culture of a company. Leaning towards specific objectives that facilitate the transformation, it is, in the end, a choice the organization decide to make.
Which is the best approach to embrace innovation?
Although there isn’t a standard formula for success, however, there are common patterns that set an organization apart, and those can be seen in:
1. a full buy-in from the board
2. a CEO with a clear vision of the future in 2/5 years
3. a leadership that facilitate and promote transparency, communication, and collaboration to make sure everybody is on board and chase the same objectives, timely
4. a plan that unfolds the interaction between technology, business and people
5. diverse and cross-functional teams working together in a user-centric design fashion with internal/external customers
These five best practices and pillars are valid both in companies and also, outside, in Labs, as described in the next paragraph.
Innovation & Digital Labs
Labs are another way to handle fast-paced technological advancements moving the innovation department outside, to digital labs. Labs have been a trend of the last years that seems to keep spreading worldwide.
What’s is a lab and what a lab does?
Usually, labs are created to drive innovation outside the normal structure of its parent company. They should understand the internal strategy of the organization and help to achieve the goals in line with the strategy through the adoption of new technologies. Labs research and experiments with early-stage technologies, take risks, recruits diverse teams, encourages disruptive ideas, gives the individuals the room to fail. Mostly, they should develop products and services that perfectly match the customer’s needs. Through labs, companies seek to create the next state-of-the-art technology that will propel their business beyond competition. The results should be seen in cut costs, improve efficiency, and enhance brand awareness, boosting marketing capabilities.
Running a lab requires master time, talents, and relationships with stakeholders having a focus on ideas that will deliver significant value, through small project experimentation. Paramount is careful planning and employing a diverse community of people across industries and backgrounds. Since the labs take risk and experiments, it should be taken into account that the parent company have to expect 1/2 wins across several failures. But in this case, the value added would reside in the knowledge build up by the team that can be transferred to the parent organization. Labs usually have limited budget and resources, so part of their job is to convince the board to invest in projects and new initiatives.
Although the technology change, however, what drives transformational innovation remains the same. The 5 pillars listed above, are true for organizations, as much as for Labs. Crucial factors for success still remains, communication with the parent company, buy-in from the board, involvement of internal customers since the beginning working together in a planned and user-centric design fashion.
The innovation and digital transformation, which is the implementation of the spark coming from the innovation, is something that needs to be built from within the company and doesn’t depend by the type of the technology. Innovation resides at the intersection of business, technology, and human-centric design. In order to be achieved, it needs support from the leadership and day by day collaboration either vertical from top to button and also horizontal, between companies. Innovation is not a single project handle within the organization, or outside in a lab, but it’s the mindset that leaders need to build and teach through each daily practice, in order to be fully embraced.