Join me at Singularity University’s first Germany Summit, Berlin, 20-21.Apr.16

Join me at Singularity University’s first Germany Summit, Berlin, 20-21.Apr.16

On April 20-21, 2016, Singularity University, the most innovative and forward-looking institution, has chosen to host their SingularityU Germany Summit in Berlin—one of the most vibrant cities in the world. SingularityU Germany Summit is a local Chapter and community organization of Singularity University. It is one of the largest two-day events in Europe aimed at bringing awareness about exponential technologies and their impact on business and policy to thought leaders and executives from breakthrough companies.

What can you expect at SingularityU Germany Summit?

Leading experts from the global high-tech community will present the latest trends and cutting-edge developments in Mobility, Organization, Manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence, Computing, Robotics, 3D Printing, Machine Learning and Design Thinking. Together we strive to inspire and empower European leaders and influencers in using exponential technologies to solve today’s most pressing issues. SingularityU Germany Summit is an ideal platform to network for both alumni as well as first time attendees, leaders, government representatives, entrepreneurs, investors, NGOs.

500 attendees ranging from CEOs to young innovators from across the globe are expected to attend the event. Together we will explore issues such as: How can technological evolution be transformed into a sustainable and value-based growth for any industry? What ethical standards and responsibilities do global leaders have to account for?

 

 

 

 

Digital Transformation at ‘Life-Science meets Telco7’ on April 14, 2016

Meet me in Bonn, Germany on April 14, 2016 for the 7th installation of DeTeCon’s Life-Science meets Telco series.

This year‘s event focuses on a very special aspect of the Digital Transformation – the cross-industry collaboration and exchange.

How can digitalization be implemented to make a difference in every patient’s life? What best practices from other industries can be transferred to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries? These and many more questions we will answer at this year’s event.

You can expect a great atmosphere for networking as well as exciting discussions on:

  • What is the role of the Digital Transformation for Pharma?
  • Importance of the collaboration between Life Sciences & ICT: current changes in ICT.

Don’t miss this opportunity! Save the date and stay tuned for more information!

 

German Innovation Insider: Catch-Up in Mobility Arena

After exploring German innovation barriers to digital transformation. As a follow-up, let’s look at an example of a successful industry already known for high-tech. And which example would be more moving than the iconic German automotive industry?

Automotive, a moving example

We explored German innovation barriers to digital transformation in German Innovation Insider: The Brakes on Digital Innovation previously.  As a follow-up, let’s look at an example of a successful industry already known for German high-tech innovation: the iconic German automotive industry.

Automotive is the largest industrial sector in Germany.  Vehicles and parts make up some 20% of total German industry revenue with auto sales and exports worth 368 billion euros ($411 billion) in 2014.  Car-making is a German strong suit with luxury cars being the most profitable segment.

Electric Vehicles? – “Nein, Danke!”

Disruptive players emerged with electric car concepts for years. They were generally ignored by the established car makers despite the high eco-consciousness of German society in general.  The new technology was not considered a threat nor as profitable as the existing businesses.  So electrical vehicles were disregarded so not to disrupt or cannibalize the traditional business with combustion engine vehicles.

The influence of the car industry remains strong and has an outspoken lobby also in Germany.  This contributes to failing the German government’s announced goal of leading the electric mobility market with “one million electric vehicles on the road by 2020” since only 8,522 new electrical vehicles were registered in German in 2014 (up from under 3,000 in 2012).

2015Q1 ihs-automotive-electric-vehicles-ranked-by-country(businessinsider_com)
Germany ranks 6th in electric vehicle (EV) registrations by country in Q1/2015. EV registrations in percent of all vehicle registrations displayed.  (image: countrybusinessinsider.com)

Innovation Catch-up by the Automotive Industry

The game changed when disruptive niche player Tesla Motors started cutting into the highly profitable luxury car segment with its high-end and high-tech electric vehicles.  Tesla also receives outstanding customer service reviews in key markets such as the United States.  Suddenly German car builders scramble to catch up to protect their stakes: everyone wants to offer at least one electric vehicle in their luxury car portfolio as a ‘Tesla Killer.’ Finally, negligent or halfhearted governmental support of the program just changed course by offering temporary tax breaks and other incentives.

Growing out of the Niche

Now, disruptive innovation may not make cars obsolete.  We still want to get from A to B, so incrementally improved cars (better safety, quality components, etc.) will remain in demand and customers will continue to pay a premium for luxury models. Take a closer look at Tesla though to see the difference of their bigger and bolder view: the Model S versions, for example, are constructed all the same except for the model sticker on the back.

The true battlefield is no longer the physical car alone.  From the steering unit to the breaking-system Tesla’s are built from pre-assembled, tried-and-tested components from quality manufacturers; including parts from some German hidden champions such as Stabilus (liftgate gas spring) and ZF Lenksysteme (steering mechanism).

tesla-suppliers-2013(insideevs_com)
Model S relies on quality parts by suppliers  (image: insideevs.com)

Software is Pivotal

Nonetheless, it’s the software configuration in the Model S that makes the difference from regulating the available battery capacity (extended range) to other features (acceleration) that become available to its passengers.  Tesla added ‘Autopilot’ functionality and a self-parking feature to its fleet just recently – simply via remote software update. Voila!

Reaching beyond the individual vehicle the software running the car became the key to future mobility.  The question becomes who will own the car operating system of the future?  Chances are it’s the exponential silicon players from sunny California who are best positioned, experienced and deeply understand both, digital integration and exponential innovation.

Mercedes meets the software threat and opportunity by aiming to control this pivotal technology, which may otherwise be seized by more avid digital players such as Google, Microsoft or even Tesla.  Mercedes made some progress when it just announced its new E-class vehicles connecting and sharing relevant information with each other.

Out for the kill?

German luxury car-makers proudly announce their future ‘Tesla Killers’ playing catch-up with high-end electric cars of their own, such as Audi’s Q7 E-TRON Quattro, BMW’s i5 or Porsche’s performance vehicle Mission E (the latter two not available before 2019).  Tesla hardware is even coming under attack with future competition getting ready; among them  Silicon Valley’ Atieva and Tesla clones from China.

In true sports car fashion, Porsche’s marketing highlights 600hp for 0-to-60mph acceleration in under 3.5 seconds. Tesla already achieves this mark today. So where is the actual ‘kill’?

Porsche unvels Tesla Killer
Porsche unveils ‘Tesla Killer’  (image: CNBC)

The Mobility Arena

The real question aims at the next step: where will the drivers of the new Audi’s, BMW’s and Porsche’s charge their batteries on the road?

Looking at future mobility as an arena rather than just vehicles, Tesla’s venture also crossed other industries such as the critical battery business in partnership with Panasonic.  In addition, Tesla offers a wide-cast net of ‘SuperCharger’ power-stations free of charge for its customers at many highway rest-stops and gas-stations positioned to allow Tesla drivers to reach most areas of the continental U.S. already today.

Tesla Supercharger ranges (reddit_com)
Tesla Supercharger station with vehicle range  (reddit.com)

Fueling the Future

Here, Tesla secured the first-mover advantage in securing the precious real-estate needed at busy rest-stops.  In the long run, it appears doubtful that rest-stops will grant additional dedicated slots with proprietary pumps to every car-maker to recharge their line of vehicles.

Tesla SuperChargers
Tesla SuperChargers  (image: teslamotors.com)

So the German car manufacturers may be forced to cut a deal with Tesla adopting the Tesla technology and paying for using Tesla’s high-speed pump space on-the-go in the future.  Tesla even announced it will not enforce patent protection for anyone who, in good faith, wants to use the Tesla technology, which may smoothen over the adoption by other car-makers.

Outlook

Looking into the crystal ball, the automotive industry is not just about introducing more electric vehicles but is morphs to become a new mobility arena as Tesla is demonstrating.  Being still at the early stage of an exponential growth curve, Teslas are certainly not cheap to buy – yet.

Looking at electric vehicles simply as sophisticated hardware components, however, we may just enter a scenario in the not-too-distant future that reminds of Amazon’s successful strategy: giving the Kindle eReader (hardware) devices away cheap. Amazon is not interested in hardware but the content, the vast library of eBooks (software) fueling the customers’ demand, which makes all the difference and holds the keys to a proprietary, digital kingdom with recurring high revenues.

kindle-fire(michaelhyatt.com)
Amazon’s Kindle hardware is fueled by eBooks  (image: michaelhyatt.com)

German Innovation Insider: Holding the Brakes on Digital Innovation

German innovation gets trapped in the very mentality focusing on building quality products ‘Made in Germany’ that the country got well known for. Holding on to vertical product improvement, however, obstructs crossing industry barriers, convergence, developing game-changing business models, and coming up with breakthrough innovations with potential for exponential growth and returns.

Germany – Land of the ‘Hidden Champions’

A recent research study of the Centre for European Economic Research confirmed Germany leading by far with 1,550 hidden champions.  Companies are commonly considered a hidden champion if they are no. 1 or 2 on the world market, make less than EUR 1.5b revenue and their name is not overly well unknown to the general public.

Note that mid-size companies comprise 80%(!) of German industry and resemble the backbone of the German economy altogether. According to the Berlin School of Economics and Law, 90% are focused on B2B.

germany-celebrates_(latintimes.com)
Champions not only in world football (image: latintimes.com)

See if you recognize a few examples of hidden champions that are leading global players:

  • Dixi / ToiToi (portable toilets)
  • Sennheiser (headphones)
  • EBM-Papst (motor and fan manufacturer)
  • Enercon (wind energy)
  • Krones (bottling machines)
  • Recaro (car and airplane seats)
  • Trumpf (laser cutters)

Inside the Vertical Tunnel View

Among the 1.500+ market leaders, only two German companies are leading software companies (Software AG and SAP).  The vast majority focuses on more tangible product innovation leaving this digital industry somewhat isolated, underdeveloped and vulnerable like an economy’s Achilles’ Heel.

You get a good sense of a vertical bias in product innovation, when you read German open job postings for innovation lead position of sorts:  As an innovator in an automotive company, you require a solid background in engine engineering, for example, or as an innovation leader in a chemical consumer goods company, you will not be hired without in-depth knowledge of adhesives, for example.  It becomes painfully obvious how the vertical product innovation fosters a mindset of inbred solutions and can miss out on transformative opportunities beyond the own domain, bridging and converging industries.

3D-printed-German-car(partsolutions.com)
3D-printed car (image: carpartsolutions.com)

Point being: Innovators are usually hired from within a vertical industry. This leaves little room for a creative influx from the outside.  Since meaningful innovation ‘happens’ at the crossroads of disciplines in a horizontal cross-pollination of different industries and domains. This inflexible German practice lends itself to incremental improvement of products rather than disruptive transformation of businesses, entire industries or even across industry arenas.  Within a vertical mindset, ecosystem cross-pollination withers and innovators are less suited, prepared, capable, or enabled to disrupt.

Digital Transformation “Made in Silicon Valley”

When it comes to digital transformation, German companies got disrupted and steamrolled mostly by large-scale digital disruptors coming out of the United States from either California or the East coast technology ecosystems with huge global impact and a different approach:

  • The world’s largest taxi service owns no taxis (Uber)
  • The most popular media owner creates no content (Facebook)
  • The largest movie house owns no cinemas (Netflix)
  • The largest accommodation provider owns no real-estate (Airbnb)
  • The largest software vendors don’t write apps (Apple, Google) and so on.

The above examples differ from traditional products not only by bold out-of-the-box thinking but also by paying close attention to the customer.  Their business models rest firmly in the digital world with a software business and an internet backbone.

Uber and Airbnb offer digital platforms – that’s it, no tangible goods.  Nonetheless, they shake up the established industries of transportation and hospitality in ways unheard of.  They also reap exponential returns by creating new digital arenas that generate highest recurring revenue in the digital space.

Digital Industry (telecitygroup.com)
Digital business has arrived (image: telecitygroup.com)

Missing the Digital Train?

Back in Germany, its 1,500+ hidden champions flourish in a robust economy, so Germany must be doing something right overall with a vertical focus set on tangible quality products within industries.  Good money is still made in Germany by holding a steady course of vertical product improvement.

This practice also goes hand-in-hand in hand with protecting and not challenging enough the traditional sales-driven business models to avoid cannibalizing the status quo for next-generation innovations.  It reminds of the Kodak-Eastman story having invented the first digital camera but rejecting the technology in order to protect the business around the existing analog film products – and we all know what happened to Kodak.

A Digital Transformation Divide

Truly putting the customer in the center and embracing digital business requires a radical transformation of the existing business and its operations.  The critical interface between IT and Marketing, for example, often is not well developed in Germany, where traditional companies lack understanding of the digital potential and struggle with developing new, digital business models in time.

It is not a question but painfully obvious that -with the current mindset and strategy- Germany misses the train on digital transformation.  While the world moves online, many companies in Germany failed or simply ignored the emerging technological opportunities to develop digital business models consequently, in a structured fashion and timely.

Failure_to_Innovate(bobmaconbusiness_com)
Germany is missing the digital innovation train. (image: bobmaconbusiness.com)

In fact, German companies practically ‘gave up’ across entire industries including media, travel, and retail.  In a recent wake-up call, the German government asked companies and industries to focus on digital transformation in a widely proclaimed initiative called “Industrie 4.0” ‑ a race to catch up internationally.  And catching up is much needed: the narrow German ‘inside focus’ presents a vulnerability to be exploited by foreign disruptive players.  The gap widens steadily as the competitors advance fast, build up huge resources and become increasingly experienced to develop and apply digital transformation with new business models.

pessimism_quote(notable-quotes.com)
(image: notable-quotes.com)

Pessimism with an Insurance Mindset

The high level of disruption and uncertainty does not come easily to a less flexible German mindset:  Having experienced hardship many times during the not-all-that-distant history, Germans tend to seek and value predictability and safety.  Anxiety and fear of the unknown forms an undercurrent in the mindset of German society, which is expressed by seeking refuge in insurance policies to prepare for unknown future events.

As an example, not only do Germans over-insure their daily lives with a myriad of insurances, Germany also holds on to one of the largest amounts of hospital beds and bunkers per capita. You find more hospital capacity in the Berlin-area alone than in all of their neighboring country, The Netherlands!

In general, start-up funding is not as easy to come by as in the U.S., for example, where venture funding is a more common practice.  When I arrived in Germany a year ago, I came across a serious government program that ‘supported’ a new start-up or entrepreneurs with grants tied to a projected positive return-on-investment (ROI) within the first year.  Now, building a profitable business from scratch within in year is an unrealistic goal.  Consequently, the desperate entrepreneur in need of funding would have to submit a bogus business plan right off the bat, which is a set-up for disappointment down the road.  So, either the government program is not meant serious (unlikely) or is designed by people not knowing the first thing about starting a business (likely).

senior-woman-confused-by-tablet-computer(sheknows.com)
Reluctance to embrace technology? (image: sheknows.com)

Techno-Fear and Over-regulation

Overall, the German mindset tends to be more critical regarding new and unfamiliar technology.  Seeking to avoid risk comes with a tendency to ‘over-regulate’ in the sense of applying regulations just because it is possible to regulate rather than because it is necessary to come up with regulation.

Since a long time, Germany has the strictest data privacy laws (that recently translated into GDPR, Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation).  The domestic law protects the individual by granting them the right to control their personal data online and offline.  These regulations are rooted in the country’s dark experiences during its Nazi-past but are also is a reflection of the outspoken suspicion among the broader population towards digital data technologies and their application.  Thus, Germans tend to be more reluctant to share personal data on social media out of fear of exposure and losing control.

The protective (domestic) legislation means well but can only be effective in a closed system, which the (global) internet is not.  In a digital world, international boundaries are artificial.  Given the nature and proliferation of digital technology and interconnectivity of people around the globe, keeping up the aspired high standards proves increasingly cumbersome if not impossible.

The German island can hardly be defended effectively over time.  It may protect the citizens from some harm locally but in return also isolates them and denies them access to the benefits of a technology that ever progresses globally.

Losing the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Given a rather pessimistic Germany mindset that is reluctant to fully immerse in the digital world, digital-resistant citizens appear poorly prepared for ‘moonshot’ visions, embracing the opportunities of Big Data Analytics or the vast potential of the Internet-of-Things (IoT).

German innovation death(deskmag_com)
Reluctant to start up a business (image: deskmag.com)

The present German ‘generation of heirs’ inherits the wealth created by their parents’ generation during the famous post-WWII decades known as the economic “Wirtschaftswunder” boom.  Very much in contrast to the U.S. or Asia, many Germans do not share the venturing spirit anymore.  They show reluctance to trying out something new such as building a business as an entrepreneur for several reasons:

  • Firstly, Germans tend to prefer a detailed plan before actively exploring an opportunity and strictly sticking to the plan during implementation. Besides the favorable element of thorough planning, this approach also reflects a deeper fear of failure and seeking a sense of security and predictability.  Deviating from the plan is often interpreted as a failure.
    But then, which plan ever is perfect and stands the test of a dynamic reality? Sadly, the debate then quickly tends to turn to finding a culprit when things go sour rather than making adjustments to keep moving on.
  • Secondly, German hesitation and even a good amount of pessimism roots in the stigma of a business failure, which seems to stick more in German society than in the United States. More than 9 out of 10 start-ups fail, but when a startup fails in the U.S this does not automatically translate into a personal failure of the leader.  It is much more seen as a learning experience, while a German CEO gets easily branded a loser.
    Surrounded by the ‘insurance thinking’ mentioned earlier it will be hard for the former CEO finding support for a future business or even employment in Germany after a venture failed. In consequence, the German CEO is more motivated to beat a dead horse rather than cutting the losses and move on.

Summary – Brakes on Digital Innovation in Germany

For all these reasons, visions tend to be smaller in Germany.  They are more designed to control risk than seizing exponential business opportunities.  Thinking too small, not disruptive enough and too focused within an industry prohibits to compete with the digital global players that emerged with exponential business models, such as the Googles, Apples, Amazons, Airbnbs, Ubers, and so on out there.

Brake-damage(dba.com.au)
Brake damage ahead! (image: dba.com.au)

What keeps the brakes on the German innovation machine is the inbred mindset and vertical tunnel vision with a focus more on products instead of customers, and the risk-avoidance and fear of applying digital technology to its full potential.  It traps many German companies in a self-limiting disadvantage compared to American or Asian competitors, which prove more venturous, flexible and generally optimistic.

The U.S., in particular, entrepreneurs come not only with a more flexible and optimistic mindset but can also tap into unique startup eco-systems in place (Silicon Valley, Boston, and NYC areas primarily) with easy access to bright minds, cross-pollination and venture capital.

Outlook

There remains a demand for physical, quality products in the future, such as the machinery, tools or cars we value today as Made in Germany, so the 1,500+ hidden champions look into a bright future.  Their reluctance to embrace the digital age, however, and transform to embrace new digital business models, however, may steadily push them to the sidelines as industries and arenas change beyond their input or control.

Join Masterclass webinar: “Beyond-the-Pill” Disruptive Innovation within Pharma, Feb. 23, 2016

The pharmaceutical industry struggles with the fundamental changes of the healthcare systems worldwide. For many reasons, the traditional mindset and business models of the past are failing today. New approaches are needed for innovation “beyond the pill” to stay profitable and ahead of competitors.

But how to change a large organization bottom up and from within?

Sign up for the Masterclass: “Beyond-the-Pill” Disruptive Innovation within the Pharmaceutical Industry webinar hosted by the Intrapreneurship Conference at 5-7pm CET (11am-1pm ET) on February 23, 2016!

Intrapreneurship Conference

Why?  The pharmaceutical industry struggles with the fundamental changes of the healthcare systems worldwide. For many reasons, the traditional mindset and the business models of the past are failing. New approaches are needed for innovation “beyond the pill” to stay profitable and ahead of competitors.

But how to change a large organization bottom up and from within?

This session offers you a unique birds-eye and worms-eye view on pharma innovation and its shortcomings under the current paradigm, before diving into real-life case studies of intrapreneuring, disruptive transformation and strategic innovations within and beyond a Global FORTUNE 500 pharma company.

Join this masterclass and learn on how to bring intrapreneuring and transformation to life in a large pharma company.

Join me at the 5th Annual Pharma PPM Toolbox in Basel/Switzerland, Mar. 6, 2015

Join me at the 5th Annual Pharma PPM Toolbox in Basel/Switzerland on March 5-6, 2015!

Presentation at 3pm on March 6, 2015

Come to discuss my talk about “Changing employee mindset to boost collaboration and engagement for extreme business results”

  • How to overcome innovation hurdles in large organizations
  • How to build an entrepreneurial culture within your company to respond to change quickly
  • Measuring success beyond money – behavior change for best practices and boosting ROI

Workshop at 3:30pm on March 6, 2015

And take my Intrapreneuring Workshop “Building an innovation framework to design, launch and execute business projects”
The workshop participants experience the role of an intrapreneur to bring a project to life using disruptive methods and collaboration.

  • Innovation Barriers and Assessment
  • Becoming an Intrapreneur
  • Resistance, Sponsor and Team
  • Prototyping, Pitching and Investor Insights
  • Implementation considerations

About the Conference

Pharma companies stand on a cross-road for a few years now.  They can choose to stick to their old ways that will probably slowly kill their business or successfully adapt to the reality of continuously shrinking pipelines and growing obstacles.

The 5th Annual Pharma PPM Toolbox will provide you with fresh ideas and solutions from experts who work hard to keep up with uncompromising market demands.

The Future of Pharma: Calls Moving to Consults (video)

Calls Moving to Consults is a thought leadership video in the “10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015” series that was hosted by the stellar Richie Etwaru, Chief Digital Officer with Cegedim.

This video addresses the question:  How can the pharmaceutical industry reskill representatives to be knowledgeable consultants to physicians?

Today, sales expertise is not enough. The pharmaceutical representative needs to be a broker of information. Physicians now have very limited time – and dictate when they can meet with representatives, from whom they need comprehensive information that they can pass along to their increasingly educated patients.

In this video, Jo Ann Saitta, Chief Digital Officer of the CDM Group, Stephan Klaschka, Innovation and Healthcare Consultant, and moderator, Richie Etwaru, Chief Digital Officer at Cegedim, examine this shift and the challenges pharmaceutical companies may face in properly retraining their people. These challenges include: adopting a culture of learning agility; integrating silos of information; having the ability to serve up dynamic content; and training representatives to utilize technologies that will maximize their brief but demanding visits with physicians.

Use this link to watch all 10 videos in the series on YouTube directly – enjoy!

  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015 – Communication moving to Collaboration
    • Angela Miccoli
    • Wendy Mayer
  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015 – Content moving to Context
    • James Corbett
    • Craig DeLarge
  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015 – Care moving to Cure
    • Michael DePalma
    • John Nosta
  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015 – Compliance moving to Culture
    • Bill Buzzeo
    • Gus Papandrikos
  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015 – Supply Chains moving to Supply Constellations
    • Ray Wang
    • Aron Dutta
  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015 – Customization moving to Configuration
    • Tracy Maines
    • Krishna Cheriath
  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015 – Customer moving to Consumer
    • Paul Kandle
    • Mark Stevens
  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015 – Calls moving to Consults
    • Jo Ann Saitta
    • Stephan Klaschka
  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015 – Cloud moving to Crowd
    • Les Jordan
    • Krishnan Sridharan
  • 10 Inevitable Changes in Pharma 2015- Charity moving to Cause
    • Janet Carlson
    • Beth Bengtson

Eyeforpharma interview “Taking the entrepreneurial approach”

Read this insightful “Taking the entrepreneurial approach” interview conducted by Eyeforpharma on the impact of hierarchy and how executive mindset inhibits adapting to the rapidly changing commercial landscape.  It outlines how “intrapreneurs” and internal “angel investors” can get large, mature organizations moving again!

Read Intrapreneuring Case Study “Leading Innovation” by Ivey Business School!

The prestigious Ivey Business School of the Western University in Ontario, Canada, published an insightful new teaching case study on intrapreneuring and corporate innovation titled “Boehringer Ingelheim: Leading Innovation” in which the case writers, Professor J. Robert Mitchell, Ph.D., and Ramasastry Chandrasekhar, follow the footsteps of the newly appointed innovation director.

Meant to raise questions and serving as a learning opportunity for graduate students in academic program around the globe, this case study lifts the corporate curtain a bit to show how innovation through intrapreneuring really happens and decision points along the way.

Outline (by Ivey Publishing)

The newly appointed director of Innovation Management & Strategy at Boehringer Ingelheim, a German-based multinational pharmaceutical company, is finding his way forward in his firm’s new, first-of-its-kind role, which is central to the company’s growth rejuvenation strategy. His job has a threefold mandate: to build internal networks, to establish internal structures and to leverage internal ideas. His biggest challenge, however, may be transforming the organization’s DNA. The blockbuster business model that has characterized the company for decades is no longer appropriate. Instead, the firm needs to develop healthcare products available to end users over the counter. This shift in strategy requires innovative changes in distribution, delivery and customer focus. To accomplish this goal, he needs to institutionalize innovation so that it becomes sustainable. But in doing so, he must also identify the metrics for assessing progress. The case provides an opportunity for students to step into the shoes of an innovation leader, to develop an innovation roadmap for the organization in the face of uncertainty and to understand how to engage in innovation leadership at various levels of a global enterprise.

Learning Objective

This case has two key objectives. First, this case provides students an opportunity to grapple with the difficult decisions associated with innovation in an uncertain environment. Second, this case highlights that anyone has the ability to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset and to lead innovation. The case divides the attributes of an innovation leader into five components: observing, questioning, experimenting, networking and associating. It shows the real-life experiences of a manager doing seemingly routine activities, who evolved into a leader who transformed the DNA of a global enterprise. The case also provides a template of the tasks, responsibilities and value-added changes as an individual moves progressively within an enterprise from an operations manager to a senior manager to an innovation leader. This case can be used either toward the beginning or toward the end of any course that addresses innovation and creative thinking in a large organization. At the beginning of a course, it illustrates the challenges of acting in the face of uncertainty in a large organization. At the end of a course, the case provides an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned about innovation, entrepreneurial thinking and innovation leadership.

“Angel Investing as corporate venturing within a company” guest blog on CUREconnect

Angel Investing as corporate venturing within a company concludes the 3-posts mini-series as guest blogger for CURE.

However, it’s not over!  Please check in occasionally for more innovation and intrapreneuring-related posts in the future!

CURE serves as the bioscience cluster of Connecticut, a diverse network of small and large life and healthcare sciences companies, ranging in scope from therapeutics, to healthcare technology, to medical devices. Universities, government agencies, scientists, educators, mentors, students, entrepreneurs, business experts, service providers and investors join in to begin nucleate the breadth of the network.

As participants in CURE, we educate, cultivate entrepreneurship, support the build of bioscience companies and collaborate to ensure a sustainable, high-value bioscience and healthcare community that improves our quality of life and keeps the Connecticut community strong.

Join me at the Intrapreneurship Conference 2014 in The Netherlands, Dec.10-12, 2014

Meet me at the Intrapreneurship Conference 2014 at the “Kennispoort”-building of the Eindhoven University of Technology, John F. Kennedylaan 2, 5612 AB Eindhoven, The Netherlands, from December 10-12, 2014!  Contact me you are interested to attend, as I may be able to get you a discounted ticket!

Don’t miss

Why attend?

Intrapreneurship is the most powerful engine for growth. With innovation being priority #1, how are you implementing and leveraging innovation from within?

Now being organized for the fourth time, the Intrapreneurship Conference 2014 is the premier global event for Corporate Innovation Managers, Intrapreneurs, Business Managers, HR-Managers and Innovation Consultants. This is not just another conference on innovation, where you will be listening to motivational speakers all day. We intentionally keep the number of available seats at a level that enables you to really connect with everyone.
Discuss the best and next practices in implementing and leveraging intrapreneurship.  We have carefully curated a program for you that includes all relevant topics in the field of intrapreneurship, and invited experienced intrapreneurs and experts to co-create an impactful learning experience for you.

You will leave the conference with a clear action plan and practical tools for the next step in implementing intrapreneurship.  Plus, you will meet like-minded people to connect, share and collaborate with – as most Intrapreneurs are the lone mavericks in the corporate jungle.

Meet me at AlphaSights’ Knowledge Summit in NYC, Nov. 19, 2014

Event

The AlphaSights Knowledge Summit – Accessing Critical Business Knowledge Safely and Securely in the 21st Century
at the Harvard Club of New York City, 27 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

Overview

In today’s digitally connected economy, competitive advantage no longer comes from ‘hard’ assets. It’s human assets – knowledge and talent – that give companies and investors an edge.

Specialist knowledge can be accessed, shared and recombined quicker than ever before, driving innovation, interactivity and wealth creation. But knowledge lies at the heart of the next billion-dollar company as much as it lies at the heart of billion-dollar trade-secret lawsuits or insider trading convictions. Leading professionals and their employers find themselves in the crosshairs of litigious competitors and ambitious prosecutors more often than ever before.
At this Knowledge Summit, acclaimed thought-leaders, top lawyers, former federal prosecutors and leading practitioners will explore and discuss current best-practice in the acquisition and protection of knowledge in today’s globally connected economy.

Why attend? – Other than just meeting me 🙂

Every organization needs to access external knowledge to succeed. But what type of knowledge delivers a competitive edge, and how can it be accessed both safely and efficiently?

Network with and learn from fellow senior legal, compliance and commercial executives from the world’s leading investment and advisory firms at the Harvard Club in New York City. Over a half-day event, the Summit will discuss:

  • Best-practice policies and procedures for effective knowledge acquisition. What systems and practices do the top investment funds and leading lawyers recommend?
  • Where can public and private investors trip up when seeking alpha? Lessons from Operation Perfect Hedge and recent private equity litigation.
  • Why the exchange of knowledge has always driven human progress, and what the ramifications of a totally interconnected global marketplace might be.
  • Redrawing the battle lines for talent and knowledge as employees move ever more freely between firms – should smart employers embrace or be wary of the ‘free-agent’ economy?

 

Meet me at Yale’s “Patients and Big Data in Healthcare: Deriving Value and Accelerating Innovation” Nov.11, 2014

Patients and Big Data in Healthcare: Deriving Value and Accelerating Innovation
Nov 11 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

REGISTER:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/patients-and-big-data-in-healthcare-deriving-value-and-accelerating-innovation-tickets-12475417309

CURE and Yale, in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim, presents “Patients and Big Data in Healthcare: Deriving Value and Accelerating Innovation.” In an increasingly digital age, healthcare stakeholders can access significant amounts of data and knowledge using various platforms. Critically, this “big data,” represents a vast quantity of complex and diverse information. While payers, providers, healthcare experts and the pharmaceutical industry have the capability to analyze this data to gain insight, this information can be overwhelming to patients. This BioHaven event, moderated by Richard Foster, has convened a panel of experts to explore the topic of “big data,” the role of the patient in data analytics, the role of payers and what actionable data represents. Further discussion will explore the state of the art, including discussing national hospital systems using big data and local ones in CT and at Yale. Finally, the discussion will conclude with discussion about effectively incorporating big data into operations and where the field is headed.

Special kudos to my valued colleague Faye Lindsay, who was instrumental in pulling this event together!

Some of the topics the moderator and panelists will consider:

Defining and Exploring the topic

  • Tell us what “big data” means to you and why it is important.  Give us one example which illustrates the best use of big data to date.
  • What is the role of the patient in data analytics?  Does it benefit them?  Do they naturally do it?  How error prone are the data they provide directly?
  • What is the role of the payer in all of this.  Can they get the data they need to better set rates?  Will “big data” help or hurt the payers?
  • What is actionable data?  What are the three major areas where we are making progress?

State of the Art

  • Where is the best state of the art in using data to improve outcomes in the US?  How do we know that is true?
  • What hospital systems or MCOs are most advanced?
  • How are we doing in CT compared to other states?  How do we know?
  • What is the state of the art in healthcare info tech/big data in the US.   Where?  Why?  What do we need to do to catch up?

Unanticipated Consequences

  • Will all this measurement result in intense, and from time time, unproductive rivalries between docs, or hospital systems?
  • How can the providers use “big data” and not put at risk the effectiveness of current medical care delivery processes which have takes years to define and perfect?

Specific Subtopics

  • Big Data and the bottom 5%
  • We know we spend $1.35 T on 5% of the population. Do we know who they are and how we can best treat them.  How much can we expect to reduce the cost, or improve the quality of the health care delivered to these patients?
  • Big Data and Quality
  • Integrating Big Data into Operations, effectively

What is coming?

  • Who is controlling the pace of advance in Big Data these days – Academia (who), the Payers (who?), the providers (who?) the Feds (who and who in HHS/CMS?)  What about the role of the National Cancer Hospitals.  Or other specialized (by disease/condition) providers (e.g. DaVita)

Moderator:

Richard N. Foster, PhD, Emeritus Director, McKinsey and Co; Lecturer, Yale School of Management.

Dr. Foster is an emeritus director of McKinsey & Company, Inc. where he was a Director and Senior Partner. While at McKinsey he founded several practices including the healthcare practice and the private equity practices, the technology practice and innovation practice. From 1995 to 1998 he led McKinsey’s worldwide knowledge development.

At Yale, Dr. Foster teaches “Managing In Times of Rapid Change” and serves as the Executive in Residence at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. Dr. Foster’s research interests are in the relationships between capital formation, innovation, and regulation. Dr. Foster has written two best-selling books: Innovation: The Attacker’s Advantage (1986) and Creative Destruction (2001), both of which were cited as among the “ten best books of the year” when they were published by the Harvard Business Review.

Dr. Foster’s work has appeared in Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times as well as several dozen articles in research and popular journals. Dr. Foster was recognized as one of their ten “Masters of Innovation” in the past century. He was the external leader of the Concil on Foreign Relations Study Group on Technological Innovation and Economic Performance which led to the publication of Technological Innovation Economic Performance (2001, Princeton University Press).

Panelists:

Harlan Krumholz, MD, Harold H. Hines Jr. Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Professor of Investigative Medicine and of Public Health (Health Policy); Co-Director, Clinical Scholars Program; Director, Yale-New Haven Hospital Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation.

Dr. Krumholz’s research focuses on improving patient outcomes, health system performance and population health. His work with health care companies has led to new models of transparency and data sharing. His work with the U.S. government has led to the development of a portfolio of national, publicly reported measures of hospital performance. These measures also became part of several provisions of the health reform bill. He is currently working with leaders in China on government-funded efforts to establish a national research and performance improvement network.

Dr. Krumholz is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine, the Association of American Physicians, and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. He is a Distinguished Scientist of the American Heart Association. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the American College of Cardiology, the Board of Directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the Board of Governors of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Rishi Bhalerao, MBA, Director of PatientsLikeMe, a free patient network and real-time health research platform.

At PatientsLikeMe Rishi manages major relationships with industry partners. Prior to joining PatientsLikeMe, Rishi spent several years as a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and more recently, as an innovation consultant, at a firm started by Prof. Clay Christensen of the Harvard Business School. He earned an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and also holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Engineering.

You Xi

Director of Business Analytics at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals (BI)and leads a team of analysts conducting analysis across all BI’s portfolio and communicating findings and strategic insights to internal stakeholders (Marketing, Sales, Managed Markets, Sr. Management etc.).

The key deliverables include using various data sources to measure performance, build promotional mix optimization modeling, behavior segmentation, portfolio optimization, etc.  Prior to BI, You was a consultant at ZS Associates and then held various management roles in the pharmaceutical industry including Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Novartis.

Michael Matteo

Mike Matteo is chief growth officer at Optum, where he is responsible for creating and enabling growth across the company. Matteo focuses on the needs and opportunities of Optum’s customers and how the company can deliver creative, innovative solutions that meet their objectives. Prior to bringing his passion for modernizing the health care system to Optum in 2012, Matteo served for four years as chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare National Accounts, where he expanded the company’s industry-leading position in the large-employer marketplace. Prior to becoming CEO, Matteo led business development efforts for UnitedHealthcare National Accounts, where previously he worked in product development and was instrumental in designing and launching the company’s first consumer-driven product innovations. He joined UnitedHealth Group in 1997 as a strategic account executive, helping many of the company’s largest employer clients meet their health care objectives.

Before joining UnitedHealth Group, Matteo was with Physicians Health Services, where he served the needs of major clients as an underwriting director and senior account executive. He began his career serving in multiple roles with Traveler’s Insurance Companies. Matteo graduated magna cum laude with honors from the College of the Holy Cross, and participated in the Columbia University Executive Management Program. He is on the boards of the MetroHartford Alliance, Hartford YMCA, and Connecticut Science Center, and served as chairperson of the Greater Hartford Arts Council Capital Campaign.

Don’t miss Gati Dharani on ‘Wearables for Health Intervention in Aging Population’ @APHA, Nov.17, New Orleans

It’s a billion dollar question: How can we use wearable mobile devices for better health outcomes in the aging population?  Join my valued colleague and HITLAB innovator Gati Dharani and her team revealing newest research in sights on “Wearable fitness tracker intervention increases physical activity in Baby Boomers” at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) HEALTHOGRAPHY 142nd Annual Meeting and Exposition on November 15-19, 2014, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Why is this a billion dollar question? – The traditional business model of the pharmaceutical industry is broken.  The focus shifts to incentivize patient-centric outcomes, prevention and behavior change in the global battle against a mounting wave of chronic diseases such as diabetes.  In search for a new business “beyond the pill” the pharmaceutical industry joins other stakeholders in the healthcare system to align and pull in this same direction.  First data-driven results are highly anticipated – well, here they are, so don’t miss this milestone event!

Meet me at “Healthcare Delivery to Developing Countries Using Mobile Technology” in NYC, Oct. 22, 2014

The German Center for Research and Innovation and Physicians Interactive offers a high-level panel discussion on “Healthcare Delivery to Developing Countries Using Mobile Technology” at the German House, 871 United Nations Plaza (First Ave. at 49th Street), New York, NY.  on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  – Click here to sign up for an invite to this RSVP event.

Why?

The United Nations reports that a child born in the developing world is 33 times more likely to die by age five than a child born in the U.S. or in Germany. Tragically, the leading causes of death are entirely preventable. Given the shortage of health care providers worldwide and the explosive proliferation of mobile phones, devices, and apps, mobile health technology has a tremendous opportunity to help improve health in developing countries. How can we best deploy mobile health technology to help save lives and empower communities? Is there a role for human rights advocacy in the campaign to increase access to quality care? And, what lessons can the West learn from the developing world with regards to solving the problems of access, affordability, and even innovation?

Expert panelists address these and other pertinent questions about using mobile technology to solve the health care crisis:

  • Kerry Kennedy – President, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
  • Donato J. Tramuto – CEO & Chairman, Physicians Interactive
  • Bernd Altpeter – CEO & Founder, German Institute for Telemedicine and Health Promotion (DITG)

moderated by


Speaker Biographies:

Kerry Kennedy is President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. She is the bestselling author of Being Catholic Now and Speak Truth to Power. Ms. Kennedy started working in human rights in 1981 when she investigated abuses committed by U.S. immigration officials against Salvadoran refugees. Since then, her life has been devoted to the pursuit of justice and to the promotion and protection of basic rights. She established the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights in 1988 and has led over 50 human rights delegations across the globe. Ms. Kennedy founded RFK Speak Truth to Power, a global human rights education initiative that is taught to millions of students worldwide.  In 2010, she founded RFK Compass, which convenes financial leaders to consider the impact of human rights violations, environmental degradation, and corruption on investment outcomes. Ms. Kennedy is Chair of the Amnesty International USA Leadership Council and serves on the boards of directors of Human Rights First, Inter-Press Service, and the United States Institute for Peace. She has three daughters, Cara, Mariah, and Michaela.

Donato J. Tramuto, Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Physicians Interactive, has more than 30 years of healthcare experience in both the product and service segments. Mr. Tramuto is the Chairman and Founder of the Tramuto Foundation, a non-profit organization that he created in 2001 to help young individuals achieve their educational goals and has also supported more than 40 organizations worldwide in helping the disadvantaged of our land.  In 2011, following the devastating effects from the earthquake in Haiti, Mr. Tramuto founded Health eVillages, a program now residing at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights and funded through Physicians Interactive, which provides state-of-the-art mobile health technology to medical professionals in the most challenging clinical environments around the world. Mr. Tramuto serves on several executive leadership boards:  The Boston University School of Public Health Dean’s Advisory Board, the Physicians Interactive Board of Directors, the Robert F. Kennedy U.S. Leadership Council, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights Europe Board, the HealthWays (NASDAQ) Board of Directors, and the Maine Economic Council. In 2005, 2009, and 2012, he was selected by PharmaVoice as one of the Top 100 Most Inspirational Healthcare Leaders in the Life Sciences Industry. Mr. Tramuto was selected as one of four distinguished recipients of the 2014 Ripple of Hope Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights.

Bernd Altpeter is Founder and CEO of the German Institute for Telemedicine and Health Promotion (DITG). Prior to this, he founded the boutique consulting firm “driving growth group,” which works for German and international life science companies. Previously, Mr. Altpeter was Global Business Partner at Monitors Marketing Practice M2C. Since 2006, he has been operating as a consultant, business angel, and entrepreneur in the eHealth business. In March 2013, he founded DITG, which to date has evolved into one of the leading eHealth companies in Germany, offering lifestyle intervention programs for chronic diseases such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, in addition to servicing international companies in various sectors from health insurance to the pharmaceutical industry. Mr. Altpeter studied economics in Germany, France, and the U.S.
Moderator Biography:

Wolfgang Renz is President of International Business at Physicians Interactive. Prior to this role, Dr. Renz was Corporate Vice President of Business Model & HealthCare Innovation at Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. For over a decade, he has been involved in developing medicines and technology to help people lead healthier, more productive lives. At Boehringer Ingelheim, he led a team of specialists to find, test, and develop the disruptive technologies that will shape the way healthcare will be delivered in the future. In addition, he currently also serves as Adjunct Professor of Surgery at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine in Montreal, Canada. Dr. Renz holds a medical degree and a Ph.D. from Freiburg University and is board certified in Germany in emergency medicine.

“Intrapreneuring: Building an innovation eco-system with the School for Intrapreneurs” guest blog on CUREconnect

Intrapreneuring: Building an innovation eco-system with the “School for Intrapreneurs” continues the mini-series as guest blogger for CURE.

My first post “Why large organizations struggle to innovate” looked at innovation obstacles in large organizations.  This second post discusses on how to overcome these obstacles and followed by another successful approach covered in my next post in few weeks.

CURE serves as the bioscience cluster of Connecticut, a diverse network of small and large life and healthcare sciences companies, ranging in scope from therapeutics, to healthcare technology, to medical devices. Universities, government agencies, scientists, educators, mentors, students, entrepreneurs, business experts, service providers and investors join in to begin nucleate the breadth of the network.

As participants in CURE, we educate, cultivate entrepreneurship, support the build of bioscience companies and collaborate to ensure a sustainable, high-value bioscience and healthcare community that improves our quality of life and keeps the Connecticut community strong.

“Why large organizations struggle to innovate” guest blog on CURE

“Why large organizations struggle to innovate” is my first post in a mini-series as a guest blogger for CURE.  This first post looks at obstacles large organizations face to innovate, while the following posts will look at ways on how to overcome these obstacles over the next few weeks.

CURE serves as the bioscience cluster of Connecticut, a diverse network of small and large life-sciences and healthcare companies, ranging in scope from therapeutics, to healthcare technology, to medical devices. Universities, government agencies, scientists, educators, mentors, students, entrepreneurs, business experts, service providers and investors join in to begin to nucleate the breadth of the network.

As participants in CURE, we educate, cultivate entrepreneurship, support the build of bioscience companies and collaborate to ensure a sustainable, high-value bioscience and healthcare community that improves our quality of life and keeps the Connecticut community strong.

Shut down! Why Successful Innovations Die

Why successful innovations get shut down. WhIle we expect unsuccessful initiatives and projects to get shut down, what sense does it make to stop hugely successful ones?

Punished Despite Success

It doesn’t make sense to shut down profitable programs – or does it?  It happens all the time when the current yet wilting business model still tastes sweet.  Investing in building a disruptive, future business model appears less palatable as it takes uncomfortable transformation that comes with investment cost and lower profits initially.  The sobering reality is that short-term gains often win over long-term investments, sustainability and bold moves to explore uncertainty and white space.

Here is a quick example from the fossil oil and gas industry straight out of Bloomberg Businessweek, “Chevron Dims the Lights on Green Power” (June 2-8, 2014):  Chevrons renewable power group successfully launched several projects generating solar and geothermal power for over 65,000 homes.  Despite margins of 15-20%, the group was surprisingly dissolved earlier this year after they had just about doubled their projected profits from $15 million to $27 million in 2013, the first year of their full operation. – Why would you kill a profitable new business?

Clashing Business Models

As for reasons for the shut-down, a former Chevron employee and Director of Renewable Energy notes that Chevron’s core businesses, oil and gas, still remain more profitable than renewable energy.  This development signals that Chevron’s leadership is willing to experiment with renewable energy but does not seem fully committed – it makes Chevron’s slogan “Finding newer, cleaner ways to power the world” sound like lip-service.

Instead, Chevron continues to hold on tightly to their old business model to squeeze out the last drop of oil.  Chasing short-term profit margins may prove not only a questionable path for long-term company sustainability but also from a business model perspective.  While oil and gas prices have been on the rise for the past decades, it is well-known that these natural resources become scarce, so extraction from more challenging locations becomes increasingly expensive.  It cuts into the company’s profits and the consumers’ pockets.  To date, Chevron already pays a higher cost for extracting oil compared to competitors.

Chevron focuses on the upper tail of the S-curve of the current technology instead at the expense of preparing for the disruptive jump to the next technology platform. (See section “Technology S-curves” in 10x vs 10% – Are you still ready for breakthrough innovation?)
The risk here is to lose out on developing and acquiring new technologies that will be the make-or-break competitive advantage in the industry’s future.

Bio Fuels

Interestingly, Chevron’s competitor and largest oil company, Exxon-Mobil, takes a different approach.  Even after initial setbacks where proof-of-concept did not scale to industrial size, Exxon-Mobile now partnered with Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics to produce oil from micro-algae at industrial scale. Hopes are high that this bio-tech and bio-agriculture approach proves more practical, profitable and sustainable to replace fossil fuels in the future.

Sounds risky?  It sure is, but with profits from oil and gas still in the tens of billions this is the time to invest heavily in the jump on to the next technological S-curve. You may recall Craig Venter as a most successful entrepreneur and also the first to sequence the human genome, so there is no shortage of top bio-brainpower, which opens the flow also for more investment capital.

Nearsighted Decisions

Truth being told, several other bio-fuel ventures of this nature exist all around the world.  Neither made it to produce in industrial scale needed to satisfy the world demand for crude oil – yet.  There is no question, however, that the world is running out of affordable oil and gas at accelerating speed.  Disruptive technologies will emerge to fill the gap and redefine the energy sector.

Leadership is needed to prepare and transform the industry beyond short-term management of profit targets.  Not taking a bold step forward is the absence of leadership.  (More on the clashing goals in Leadership vs Management? What is wrong with middle management?)

Learnings

The learning here is that even profitable disruptive ventures get shut down at times when the leadership is comfortable and holds on tightly to the existing business model they are familiar with and doing what they always did rather than taking transformative steps to prepare the organization for the future.  Even with the writing clearly on the wall, the way of how profitability of a new venture is measured and the (still higher) margins of the established business (fossil fuels) make short-term focus attractive despite concerns over business model sustainability.  So often enough there is little patience to further develop even successful, transformative ventures of tomorrow in favor of enjoying the sweet but wilting fruits of today.

Somehow this short-term mindset painfully reminds me also of the established car industry who, obviously, had little interest to bring electric vehicles to market at scale over the past decades until a Tesla comes around to show them how it can and should be done.

As for our example, time will tell whether Chevron or Exxon-Mobil made the better choice in the long run to win the new business model race leading us into the post-crude oil era – or if they both get disrupted by an even different new technology altogether.

Balancing Risk of Innovation Project Portfolios

Risk of Disruption

Innovation projects are risky explorations.  Disruptive innovation projects even more so, and individual projects can be quite a gamble.  So, how can you limit the risk across your portfolio of innovation projects?  The goal is to increase the likelihood for the portfolio to succeed overall even if individual projects fail.

(Quick note for project management professionals: I am deliberately not differentiating terms like “portfolio” and “program” here.  My goal is to get the basic idea across.   More particular definitions don’t add value here.)

In mature organizations, incremental improvement can easily be and often is interpreted as ‘innovation’, which makes sense when optimizing a production environment, for example. Here, at the back-end of operations, big “elephant” projects tend to bind the organizations resources (How to grow innovation elephants in large organizations).  The innovation project portfolio I am referring to, in contrast, aims at the disruptive end: the “small elephant projects” with higher risk but the potential of extraordinarily high returns if they succeed.

Why to manage risk

In large organizations you hardly get a “carte blanche” to manage just highly risky projects.  With a corporate focus on predictable, short-term results there is too much concern of the portfolio easily becoming an unpredictable money pit.  You are likely to get shut down after playing around a while without demonstrating clear success in terms of return-of-investment.  Thus, you will need to come up with a strategy on how to compose your project portfolio to keep your stakeholders happy and your experimental playground open.

Risk Categories 

Managing risk across a project portfolio comes down to finding the right blend of high-risk/high-return projects and lower risk projects that come with less impressive potential for revenue or savings.  You also want to include a few projects that produce returns short-term to demonstrate you are making progress and reap some quick wins for impatient stakeholders while the longer-term projects need time to mature.

A common way to approach categorizing projects into into Core, Adjacent and Transformational based on their risk and return profiles:

  • Core projects are merely optimizations to improve the existing landscape of systems, processes, assets or products in existing markets and with existing customers.  These incremental improvements are the “safe bet” and “next small step” that, typically, comes with low risk, predictable outcomes but also limited returns.  They do not need high level sponsorship, are easy to predict and plan resources for, and so they are the favored playing field of mature, large organizations.  These can often be ‘large elephant’ projects seen as ‘necessary’ that the organization more easily buys into.
  • Adjacent projects come with more uncertainty and risks as they usually extend existing product lines into new markets.  Though not an entire novelty it is may be new territory for your company.  Sometime, ‘imitating’ a successful model in a different industry does the trick (read also: Imitators beat Innovators!).
    Adjacencies add to the existing business(es), which requires a higher level sponsorship (such as Vice President level) to move forward, to allocate resources and to accept the risk to fail.
  • Transformative projects are experimental and risky.  They create new markets and customers with bold, disruptive “break-through” products and new business model.  While the risk to fail is high, the returns could be huge when you succeed.  Highest level (C-level) sponsorship and support is crucial for this category not only to persist and get resources during the development phase but also for the mature organization to adopt and support it sustainably.

Finding the balance

When you manage a portfolio of disruptive (read: transformative) innovation projects, you should expect projects not to succeed most of the time.  Instead of calling it “failure,” see it as a learning opportunity.  As Thomas Edison put it so famously referring to his experiments leading to the invention of the light-bulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

The common rule for playing a safe portfolio is a 70-20-10 mix, i.e. 70% core, 20% adjacent and 10% transformative projects.  This way, many low-risk/low-return core projects keep the lights on while you play with few high-risk/high-return transformative projects.

Experiences

From my personal experience with the portfolio I manage, I leans towards accepting more risk, so you would expect and be comfortable with a lower success rate as a consequence but also higher returns.  To my own surprise, we completed 55% of our projects successfully and ended up discontinuing 26%.  Fortunately, also the average ROI from our “small elephant” projects is substantial and pays the bills for many years out.  Thus, for my portfolio, the 70-20-10 mix is too conservative.

As for how we select projects and fund projects, read also Angel Investing within the Company – Insights from an Internal Corporate Venture Capitalist and School for Intrapreneurs: Lessons from a FORTUNE Global 500 company.

Before re-balancing your portfolio in favor of a majority of risky transformative projects, however, make sure you have continued high-level sponsorship and alignment with strategy and organizational culture of your organization.  – If culture, strategy and sponsorship don’t align to support your innovation portfolio efforts, your risk increases for painful learning without sufficient business success.

> Interested in Project Management? – Don’t miss VASA’s historic project management lesson!

 

Angel Investing within the Company – Insights from an Internal Corporate Venture Capitalist

Breaking through the crust

One of my favorite and most successful approaches to building a powerful intrapreneuring ecosystem is internal corporate venturing!

It is an exquisite tool to cut through the crust of ‘red tape’ that bureaucracy builds up over time. Internal corporate venturing or “Angel investing” allows for nimble decision-making with a lean process to give disruptive innovation ideas a chance again in a large company.

Seed-funding promising ideas

How does it work?  Think of becoming a venture capitalist within the company: You invest in ventures within the organization and help building ‘intraprises’ in contrast to funding start-up enterprises outside the company. The difference is a you don’t venture for your own profit but for the better of your organization.

The idea here is to seed-fund promising disruptive ideas that otherwise would not be implemented or even seriously considered. These opportunities –typically‑ were rejected by the ‘corporate immune system’ previously, when an employee with an idea approached their line manager or a governance committee of sorts requesting approval to ‘try something out.’

POC over ROI

Often enough, there is no clear return-of-investment (ROI) predictable for these early ideas.  What you may be looking for is rather risky and experimental, a proof-of-concept (POC).  The metrics for payoff and ROI of disruptive ideas does not follow the same approach we are used to measure the more predictable returns of common cost reduction and incremental improvement projects. Disruptive POC projects often don’t have an ROI projection when you explore technology of sorts or its application that may become a game-changer for our future business.

In my experience, communicating the POC nature of the project over focusing on ROI can actually help!  It prevents the ‘organizational immune system’ from kicking in early on, since there is little threat to established practices.  Why?  It does not come across as competing with ‘big elephant’ projects over significant amounts of governed resources following the conventional processes of the company’s machinery.  Instead, we just try something out!  It’s a little experiment that doesn’t change anything, so it poses no threat to established practices, investments or the power-base of individuals defending their fiefdoms.

Aspired returns

Having said this, there is of course a commercial end to all projects. After all, we have no resources to waste and will have to demonstrate down the road that our ‘experiments’ pay off somehow. Our working assumption is that the disruption should lead to a ten-fold (10X) payoff – at least.

Personally, I prefer aiming at a bold 100X ROI target; two orders of magnitude, that is. It sets an ambitious target and -if things work out- a great success story. It’s a powerful point to make for disruptive innovation as part of our innovation ecosystem and shifting the mindset within an organization.  Sharing these success stories with executive stakeholders is crucial (for future support) as well as with employees (for future ideas).

Governance and authorization

Interestingly, what employees are looking for more than funds is authorization to do what is right and worthwhile for the company. Often, the obstacles are perceived and only exist in peoples’ minds. These barriers are formed by many factors over time, such as the management style they experienced and organizational silos that mold a company’s culture as well as the employees’ mindset.

In this particular company, a lean oversight board makes funding decisions. It is composed of a diverse team of more forward-thinking executives and a very lean decision process. The team acts as enabling ‘go-keeper’ for accelerated innovations instead of pushing the breaks as ‘gate-keeper.’

The little monies offered for trying something new only help smoothen the path for innovators in the company. The most important part is them feeling empowered and “authorized” to take action that overcomes complacency, inertia and organizational paralysis. On the spectrum of strategic innovation roles, the board serves as a “sponsor” and sometimes as a “coach,” when an idea aims to overcome internal barriers to increase efficiency, for example.

Dealing with Risk

The purpose of this governance board is to enable the exploration of disruptive ideas by giving internal innovators a chance. The focus is on projects that can be characterized as early stage experiments to explore transformative enabling technologies and value-adding services of higher risk or less predictable outcomes than conventional project portfolios in the mature organization would feel comfortable with.

Naturally, this approach comes with an elevated risk of failure when projects do not produce profitable outcomes or simply prove infeasible or poorly timed.  This ‘price’ is accepted as long as it generates learning.

The potential damage is low, since we are talking about swift and low-cost experimentation: try often and fail fast. Thus, these risky projects complement regular and more conservative project portfolios in the various businesses of the organization. In addition, the innovation project portfolio is somewhat risk-balanced, which avoids having too many high risk projects that may jeopardize the likelihood of profitability across the portfolio.  Reality is that also the disruptive innovation project portfolio has to demonstrate tangible returns over time, so the mature organization sees the economic benefit of experimenting and not shut down this ‘playground.’

Branding the projects as experiments with a proof-of-concept (POC) endpoint helps to calm the ‘organizational immune system’ and to argue that these risky ‘small elephant’ projects complement the other ‘big elephant’ project portfolios across the organization.

Getting Funds

Here are my experiences as an internal corporate venturer or ‘angel investor’ from the past years: First of all, I don’t have much money to spend. The budget I have for this kind of ventures is pathetically meager – and I overcommit it all the time! Nonetheless, I came in under budget once again by 46% last year. It sounds like an oxymoron, and since I don’t have a money tree growing in the backyard, how does this work?

The secret is in the psychology of acting as the “first investor.” Think of this way: when someone wants you to invest into their idea first with nobody else having made an investment before you, you are skeptical and most hesitant to put down your money, right?

All I do is to commit paying for an idea in full to overcome this initial threshold and get things started.  What typically happens next is that an executive from the business affected by or potentially benefiting from the project hears of my investment, reconsiders and wants to get on board too – as a second investor. Once the ‘innovation guys’ have put money down first, the investment in the idea appears less risky to the business executive, so either we split the bill or the business takes on the cost completely!

I’ve seen it happen many times with managers turning around 180 degrees after they had rejected the idea previously. This is how to deal with them: to save (their) face, don’t point out their earlier resistance but rather thank and recognize them for their support and foresight as valued contributors to change and success for the organization.  Celebrate them as enablers, win them over as allies and keep the connection for future collaborations!

Alignment and validation

Don’t be mistaken, funding by the business is not only crucial given the fact that my funds are few.  It is even more important because it validates that the idea makes sense to the business.  It aligns with strategy and goals of the organization but also helps implementing it once the business has ‘skin’ in the game! Otherwise, even if I funded a project alone, the intrapreneur running it would have a hard time getting it implemented without the support of a business sponsor.

So all it takes is making it easy for business executives to invest in a good ideas by making them feel comfortable not to invest first, which reduces their perceived risk and lowers their threshold to act.

Key Learnings

  • The lean innovation governance board is an instrument for reasonable oversight that benefits from diverse perspectives.
  • The “Go keeper” instead of “Gate keeper” process is crucial as is the willingness to accept risk of failure for disruptive projects.
  • The model proves highly effective to get around a convoluted “red-tape” bureaucracy as well as generating a surprisingly high return-of-investment (ROI) – even without the latter being the primary focus.
  • The “first investor” psychology validates the alignment of ideas with business needs and strategy while opening the flow of funds from the businesses and facilitating the implementation.
  • This internal corporate venturing or “angel investing” approach became a beacon of hope for employees and a very profitable innovation engine for the organization that starts to change the organizational culture to the better.