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The Most Critical Horizon to the Success of Corporate Innovation Initiatives

With existing business models in many different industries reaching maturity and providing little or no growth, and startups disrupting them with their new solutions, corporations find themselves more than ever in need for creating new businesses. But few corporations are able to consistently create from scratch new, big businesses that use innovative technologies and employ novel business models. For reasons explained here, it is slowly becoming apparent to corporations that the innovation model that is based solely on the efforts of corporate R&D organizations is no longer sufficient for addressing the long-term growth goals they need to achieve. To address these issues, achieve their growth goals, and avoid being disrupted corporations are starting to tap on the innovations of startup ecosystems. However, they must now learn how to select and grow these startup-centric efforts into their next-generation core businesses.

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How Corporations Can Manage New Ventures and University Projects as Extensions of their Advanced Product Development

Professor Ikhlaq Sidhu and I recently started talking about how the interest of corporations in the innovations created by startups is leading to changes in corporate R&D models, an area he has been studying for some time. As we continued our conversations we felt that it will be important to start publishing some of our thoughts. This is the first of what we hope to be a series on posts on how startup innovation is impacting corporate R&D models.  Please also see.

The World of Innovation Has Changed

A great deal has changed in corporate innovation since the days of Bell Labs and Xerox PARC.   While these models of advanced work led to so many innovations and created tremendous broad economic value, though not always to the lab’s corporate owner, it is clear that large scale, insulated corporate research is no longer the most common model for entering new markets or developing technologies of the future. Even Alphabet is re-evaluating the mission of Google X.

What has changed? For most companies, open innovation and new venture acquisitions have become extensions of the firm’s advanced R&D portfolio. At the same time entrepreneurs and their investors have become much more effective and skilled at efficiently creating new startups and bringing technology and business model innovations to market. And finally, a significant fraction of University lab work has now evolved from the traditional “publish or perish” model to one that is today closer to demonstration, design-oriented, and more applied than ever before.

All of these changes are now converge towards a new model for creating and managing portfolios of innovation.

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How to Set Up a Corporate Innovation Outpost That Works

This is the fourth in a series about corporate innovation co-authored with Steve Blank. Steve and I are working on what we hope will become a book about the new model for corporate entrepreneurship. Read part one on The Evolution of Corporate R&D, part two on Innovation Outposts in Silicon Valley, and part three The 6 Decisions to Make Before Setting up an Innovation Outpost.

In our last post, we addressed the six key questions that senior management should address to determine if an Innovation Outpost makes sense for a company. If the answer is yes, here’s a step-by-step guide to help set one up.

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How to Avoid Innovation Theater: The Six Decisions To Make Before Establishing an Innovation Outpost

This is the third in a series on the changing models of corporate innovation co-authored with Steve Blank. Steve and I are working on what we hope will become a book about the new model for corporate entrepreneurship. Read part one on the Evolution of Corporate R&D and part two on Innovation Outposts in Silicon Valley. 

Corporate Leadership’s Innovation Outpost Decision Process

Today, large companies are creating Innovation Outposts in Innovation Clusters like Silicon Valley in order to tap into the clusters’ innovation ecosystems. These corporate Innovation Outposts monitor Silicon Valley for new innovative technologies and/or companies (as emerging threats or potential tools for disruption) and then take advantage of these innovations by creating new products or investing in startups.

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Innovation Outposts in Silicon Valley – Going to Where the Action Is

This is the second in a series on the changing models of corporate innovation co-authored with Steve Blank. Steve and I are working on what we hope will become a book about the new model for corporate entrepreneurship. Read part one on the Evolution of Corporate R&D.

Innovation and R&D Outposts

For decades, large companies (see Figure 1 below) have set up R&D labs outside their corporate headquarters, often in foreign countries, in spite of having a large home market with lots local R&D talent. IBM’s research center in Zurich, GM’s research center in Israel, Toyota in the U.S are examples.

These remote R&D labs offered companies four benefits.

  • They enabled companies to comply with local government laws – for example, to allow foreign subsidiaries to transfer manufacturing technology from the U.S. parent company while providing technical services for foreign customers
  • They improved their penetration of local and regional markets by adapting their products to the country or region
  • They helped to globalize their innovation cycle and tap foreign expertise and resources
  • They let companies develop products to launch in world markets simultaneously

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Innovation Outposts and The Evolution of Corporate R&D

I first met Steve Blank when he started his enterprise software company Epiphany. Steve has spent 21 years as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur in eight startups and the last 13 years as an educator – currently teaching entrepreneurship at Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia and NYU. Steve and I are working on what we hope will become a book about the new model for corporate entrepreneurship. His insights about how corporations are adopting Lean Startup will be at the core of this series of four co-authored blog posts.

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The last 40 years have seen an explosive adoption of new technologies (social media, telecom, life sciences, etc.) and the emergence of new industries, markets and customers. Not only are the number of new technologies and entrants growing, but also increasing is the rate at which technology is disrupting existing companies. As a result, while companies are facing continuous disruption, current corporate organizational strategies and structures have failed to keep pace with the rapid pace of innovation.

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