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.

Driving Innovation in Healthcare: New Executive Intrapreneuring Workshop

Experience the new two-day intrapreneurial journey to transform you organization with exponential results!

Don’t miss EBCG’s intense and hands-on Intrapreneuring Workshop “Building an innovation framework to design, launch and execute business projects” in the Driving Innovation in Healthcare series in the “Golden City” of Prague, Czech Republic, on April 6-7, 2016.

Sign up before December 23, 2015, to save during the special promotion period.


 

 

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.

Is Disruptive Innovation a Myth?

When we talk about disruptive innovation, we can easily agree that going from the days of dim candle light and sooty oil lamps to electric light was one of these breakthrough innovations, right?  Its icon, the lightbulb serves as our symbol for a great idea today.

Lightbulb idea (www.istockphoto.com)
(source: http://www.istockphoto.com)

Who invented the lightbulb?

When you ask around “who invented the lightbulb?” the answer “Thomas Edison” first comes to mind – and the answer is wrong!  Truth is that we can give credit closer to 20(!) inventors of the lightbulb! – How so?

Thomas Edison patented the first practical and commercially viable incandescent lightbulb in 1878 and a revised design in 1879.  In addition, he  offered the first efficient electricity supply system for households and businesses, which laid the foundation and cleared the path for mass-producing light bulbs in 1880.  His design was an evolution from previous, inferior designs and enabled by improved technology.

Edison's Lightbulb (source: www.unmuseum.org)
Edison’s Lightbulb (source: http://www.unmuseum.org)

 

Sitting in the dark without Edison?

No worries, we would not stay sitting in the dark.  It appears safe to say that even if Thomas Edison was never born, the practical incandescent lightbulb would have been developed around the same time – by someone else.

Looking back in history, Humphrey Davy invented electric light in 1802; more than 75 years before Edison.  His “arc light” was unsuitable for mainstream application though it found specialty uses even today. Many more designs for incandescent light and lightbulbs were developed by several inventors, but neither were they practical nor suitable beyond demonstration stage. Prominently, Joseph W. Swan built a working prototype of a “light bulb” in 1850 – well before Edison.

Entrepreneurial Competition

Edison had access to improved technology such as a better vacuum pump for his breakthrough design. This technology was not available to previous inventors.  Edison also developed an efficient and economical way to distribute electricity when earlier designs drained batteries quickly.  (A nice example, by the way, on how a product can go a long way when bundled with a complementing service.)

On the flip-side, Edison knew of his limitation too.  He made carbonized Japanese bamboo glow as filament between two electrodes knowing that carbonized Tungsten was the superior material.  However, the technology was not available at the time to produce a thin Tungsten thread.  We had to wait for William D. Coolidge to produce the Tungsten filament for General Electric in 1910, which is still the preferred material to illuminate our modern incandescent lightbulbs today.

This situation is typical and comparable to many big ideas that entrepreneurs work on today.  There is much competition among entrepreneurs, so every good idea usually has a handful of teams working on it independently and head-to-head at the same time.  Thus, it is highly likely that, if not Edison, another inventor would have come up with the lightbulb design we are so familiar with today.

R&D as a Legacy

Perhaps, the even more impactful and lasting heritage of Thomas Edison are not his inventions, useful as they are.  His products such as the lightbulb, phonograph, quadruplex telegraph, mimeograph, etc., have been replaced over time by more advanced technology.

Nonetheless, Edison has changed the way we discover concertedly today. Until his time, inventors matched the stereotypical image of a lonely genius experimenting and inventing in their lair burning the midnight oil over some ambitious idea.  Edison established the first research and development (R&D) organization in his famous Menlo Park lab, where a large number of researchers worked together in an orchestrated way to find solutions to specific problems coordinated strategically and systematically concerted.  Edison has industrialized research!

Until today every research-driven company or organization worldwide follows in Edison’s footsteps!  What an impressive legacy!

Summary

Disruptive innovations tend to have their origin in incremental steps and competition among inventors. First working individually and now increasingly in teams or even distributed R&D organizations across country borders.
A key success factor here is building trust and incentives within the team in order for all individual contributors to share information and findings freely.

The broader, cross-functional approach to research helps to identify ideas and technologies from other disciplines that can serve as stepping stones.  Edison used a better vacuum pump, which made his design possible.  Later, the capability to manufacture a thin Tungsten wire allowed General Electric to take the lightbulb the next level.
As the saying goes, “innovation happens at the intersections of disciplines.”  The development of the lightbulb serves as a nice example proving it to hold true once again.  Thus, innovation benefits by drawing from advances in other disciplines.

So, is disruptive innovation a myth?

Back to our original question, the story of the lightbulb is a great example for a breakthrough innovation with vast ramifications that disrupted and shaped the we live and work around the globe.

It can, however, not be seen as just one big and isolated scientific step but rather a series of many little steps in combination insights from other disciplines including manufacturing, economics and marketing leading to broad adoption that changed the world.

Lightbulb evolution (source: www.thewirelessbanana.com)
Lightbulb evolution
(source: http://www.thewirelessbanana.com)

Only when it all comes together you have a disruptive innovation like Edison’s famous design.  And it was still not the end.  The journey continued to evolve with a Tungsten wire and later fluorescence, halogen and LED lights.

In this light, every disruption seems as yet another incremental step, doesn’t it?

“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.

Innovation drives Diversity&Inclusion 2.0

The traditional world of corporate Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is being disrupted by a new take on D&I and combining it with innovation and talent management.  What some perceive as a threat to the D&I establishment may just be the next step of evolution that could invigorate and drive D&I to new heights.

Though not an entirely novel approach (see also How to create innovation culture with diversity!) the new thinking gains traction.  As this could play out in different ways and only time will tell what worked, here are my thought on where we are heading.

Struggles of the  Front Runner

Many traditional D&I programs, let’s call them “version 1.0” of D&I, struggle transitioning beyond a collection of affinity groups, tallying corporate demographics and competing for D&I awards to post on their webpage.  In these traditional D&I programs ‘diversity’ is often understood to be reflected by more or less visible differences among individuals at the workplace while ‘inclusion’ translates to supporting defined sub-populations of employees through, for example, establishing affinity groups.

The United States is seen as the front runner of the D&I movement.  D&I has been around in the U.S. corporate world for decades.  For historic and demographic reasons it hones in on removing obstacles for minorities at the workplace supported also by strict legislature and execution; exercising Affirmative Action, for example.

This legacy in the U.S. lends itself to an inside focus on organizations that became the backbone of the traditional D&I programs.  It comes down to the question ‘what can or should the organization do for specific groups of people’ defined by ethnicity, gender, age, sexual preference, faith, disability, war history and so on.  Apparently, it still is work in progress as, for example, Silicon Valley just recently got on the public radar, which stirred up the debate afresh along the lines of D&I 1.0; see Google releases breakdown on the diversity of its workforce.

Stuck in the ‘Diversity Trap’?

The inside focus and minority messaging of D&I 1.0, however, can be limiting when D&I erodes to a process of ‘doing things right’ by pushing for quotas, ‘checking boxes’ and inflating variations of terminology perceived as ‘politically correct’.  This can in fact be different from ‘doing the right thing’ for the company overall, its employees as well as the affinity groups and their constituency.   It should not surprise that Affinity groups can be (and often get) stigmatized and perceived as self-serving and self-centered social networks without significant and measurable business impact.

Under this paradigm these D&I 1.0 programs struggle to get serious attention, support and funding from executives beyond operating on a minor level to ‘keep the lights on’ more for public image purposes than business drive.  The fundamentals seem to get forgotten: in the end, a business exists to generate a profit, so less profitable activities are likely to be discontinued or divested.  It’s a symbiosis and to say it bluntly: without healthy business there is no D&I program and no affinity groups.  When this symbiosis get lopsided, D&I 1.0 gets stuck in the trap.

D&I 2.0

“Diversity” is catching on beyond the United States in Europe, for example, where many countries do not have share a highly heterogeneous demographic composition, for example.  Here, companies can start with a fresh approach jumping straight to D&I 2.0 – and many do!  It reminds me of developing countries installing their first phone system by skipping the landlines and starting right away with mobile phones.

The 2.0 internal focus corresponds to hiring workers that truly think differently and have different backgrounds and life experiences some of which overlaps with D&I 1.0 affinity roots.  In addition, there is also an external focus putting the staff to work with a clear business proposition and reaching even beyond the organization.  So here a candidate would be hired or employee promoted for their different thinking (2.0) rather than more visible differences (1.0).

While need remains for affinity groups to tend to their members needs within the organization, the “new” D&I 2.0 opens to shift focus to go beyond the organization.  It goes along the lines of a statement President John F. Kennedy became famous for and that I tweaked as follows: “Don’t ask what the COMPANY can do for you ask what you can do for the COMPANY AND ITS CUSTOMERS.

D&I 2.0 gears towards actively contributing and driving new business results in measurable ways for the better of the employees as well as the organization and its customers.  A visible indicator for D&I 2.0 affinity groups helping their constituency beyond company walls is affinity groups identifying and seizing business opportunities specific to their constituency.  They translate the opportunity and shepherd it trough the processes of the organization to bring it to fruition.  For example, affinity groups are uniquely positioned to extending and leveraging their reach to relating customer segments in order to identify ‘small elephant’ business opportunities; see How to grow innovation elephants in large organizations.

The D&I 2.0 approach demonstrates sustainable business value which is why D&I 2.0 sells much easier to executives. It makes a compelling business case that contributes to new business growth, the life blood of every company.

Challenging Transition

U.S. companies stuck in D&I 1.0 are hard pressed to keep up with the D&I 2.0 developments and overcome their inner struggle and resistance.  With decades of legacy, D&I 1.0 programs in many organizations lack the vision and ability to make a compelling business case, to develop a sound strategy as well as capability and skill to implement it effectively.  This is the requirement, however, to truly see eye-to-eye with senior executives and get their full support.  This can become a serious disadvantage in the markets relating to products and customers but also in attracting talent.

In the end, the saying holds true that “talent attracts talent” and all organizations compete over talent to compete and succeed.  Therefore, a D&I 2.0 program combines business focus and talent management while tying it back to the core of diversity and inclusion: Fostering diverse thinkers and leveling the playing field for all employees.  This requires a level playing field that offers the same opportunities to all employees, which is the real challenge.

How do you level the playing field effectively in a large organization?  How this will be implemented becomes the differentiating success factor for companies transitioning to D&I 2.0!

Here is a example 2.0-style for a level playing filed that has its roots in the D&I affinity group space yet opened up to include the entire workforce.  It empowers and actively engages employees while leveraging diversity, inclusion and talent management for innovative solutions with profitable business outcomes.  It may take a minute or two to see the connection between D&I, talent and disruptive innovation but it is at work right here in the School for Intrapreneurs: Lessons from a FORTUNE Global 500 company.

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Previous posts relating to innovation and employee affinity groups / employee resource groups (ERG) / business resource groups (BRG):

“Better before Worse” – are you dropping off the cliff?

Most change initiatives fail.  Statistics from MIT research suggest that for leaders managing change the ‘capability trap’ is the single major failure mode.  So, what is this trap, how is it set up and, more importantly, how to avoid it?

As a quick disclaimer, the charts and examples are schematic and simple to get my point across.  This is a blog, not a textbook.

Under pressure

New leaders get appointed to solve a business problem such as improving poor results of sorts.  So from the start the new guy or gal is under pressure to perform and succeed.  In politics the common public expectations are to see result or bold actions within the first 100 days – and business is not known for being less demanding.

Tough Choice

So, soon enough the new leader faces a tough decision. Which choice do you favor?

  1. “Worse before better” means doing “the right thing.” However, this approach may not deliver sustainable results fast and is a hard sell to impatient or less reasonable superiors.
  2. “Better before worse” is a less stellar route to reap short-term benefits and lessen the immediate pressure but it comes at a price:  knowing that the this choice is not sustainable and will cost more later down the road.
By the way, this is really not rocket-science but straight-forward logic yet many executives still get seduced by the low hanging fruit, namely “better before worse”… so stay with me for a moment to see what happens next.

“Better before Worse” 

It starts out easy: you cut cost all over the place and look like a hero immediately.  For example, you could reduce machine maintenance or cut the employee training budget.  Schematically it looks somewhat like this:

Cutting costs equals savings
Cutting costs equals savings

What happens is that not only your balance sheet looks better quickly, you also increase productivity short-term.  The machines keep running and people keep on working, so in the short-term you produce the same output with less input.

After short-term gains, productivity plummets
After short-term gains, productivity plummets

Productivity and the Capability Inertia

The problems arrive with a delay when ‘capability inertia’ starts kicking in.  So here is what happens:  You didn’t maintain the machines yet the machines keep working – for while. Then, they break really bad and it takes a lot more money to get them fixed than having them maintained.  It’s like not putting oil in your car’s engine and driving on – somewhere down the road the engine will die on you.  You will have to spend money to fix it and live with the downtime while fixing the machines.

With a delay, the organization's capabilities suffer and are very costly to regain later
With a delay, the organization’s capabilities suffer and regaining them later proves very costly

At that time you find yourself in deep water and all your previous savings go up in smoke together with what else you didn’t budget for.

On the people side with employee training, for example, the effect is quite similar but often less obvious: You save the money for keeping them up-to-date with new technology, skilled, etc. and saved short-term.  The real problem is your staff losing its professional capabilities to continue to perform on a high level in the face of competition or adapting to changing markets and environments.  External focus comes with a cost of doing business – that you just eliminated, thereby fostering group-think and internal focus.  Getting the crew back in shape later on takes effort and is expensive: not only will you have to train them but also they are unproductive during the training period.

Furthermore, shortsighted cost-cutting inhibits seizing business growth opportunities such as ‘small elephant’ projects (see also How to grow innovation elephants in large organizations), which can jeopardize the business foundation for the future.

With it comes the ‘leaky pipeline’ effect where valuable talent leaves.  It is the best people who leave first (see How to retain talent under the new workplace paradigm?) if they see sweeping cost savings affecting critical investments in the company’s future capabilities and not surgically cuts.  Talent does not wait it out on a sinking ship.  If you are unfamiliar with the horrendous costs of turnover, check with your Human Resources person to get a sense for your burn-rate!

Despite all of this, many managers still embrace “better before worse” as the scenario of choice and believe they are “doing it the right way”.

Rewards for all the Wrong Reasons?

Unfortunately, performance and compensation frameworks in mature organizations usually support this easier approach.  ‘Success’ is typically measured quarterly or yearly as a basis for bonuses, raises or promotions.  The typical incentive systems don’t take long-term sustainability into account enough (other than stock options for publicly traded companies, for example) to change behavior.

Instead, rewards keep getting handed out on a short-term basis of evaluation.  Research showed many times over that this approach simply doesn’t work for more challenging jobs of the 21st century.  Don’t believe it? – Check out Dan Pink’s famous 18 minute TED talk “The Puzzle of Motivation” relating to the candle problem and motivation research.

As a bottom line, if don’t plan to hang around to ride out the consequences of your choice (or even have a golden parachute ready), “better before worse” appears an attractive shortcut to short-term success.  Deep down, however, you know it was not the right thing to do.  Your staff, your successor, and sometimes the entire company will suffer and face the consequence when you are gone. – So what could you do instead?

“Worse before Better” 

There is an alternative choice: the stony road of “worse before better” by doing what is right.  For leaders accepting responsibility this may be the only choice.

Right from the starts is gets tough: you increase cost to invest where things need to change most, be it people or technology. For example, invest in getting the best people to do the job and train them as well as you can for the challenges to come and step out of their way.  Establish or overhaul technology, processes and managerial framework needed to deliver results reliably.

Invest in future capabilities
Invest in future capabilities first
This takes time and money, so as you would expect, productivity suffers at first but then, if the change is executed well, recovers and quickly exceeds the additional costs by far while you deliver outstanding results reliably.
It is important here not to address all problems at one time but to prioritize and tackle change in smaller steps.  Mind that change is a development process that doesn’t lend itself to shortcuts.
With a delay, productivity recovers sustainably
After dipping down at first, productivity grows sustainably
While this is clearly the more sustainable strategy the tough part is getting your stakeholders and superiors to buy in (especially if they are looking for short-term “better before worse” results) by setting realistic expectations.  After all, “worse before better” is a sustainable basis for a business model where “better before worse” is not.
You may also have to accept not receiving the short-term performance incentives for doing the right thing if your incentive system does not reward building capabilities.  However, there are other kinds of meaningful rewards to consider.  They range from feeling good about withstanding the temptation, doing good for the company and its employees, as well as possibly getting attention from more forward-thinking parties who may want to hire you in the future as a leader with guts and brains.

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!

 

School for Intrapreneurs: Lessons from a FORTUNE Global 500 company

The earlier post “How you become the next Steve Jobs!” relies on an innovation ecosystem of sorts that already exists in your organization – but what if there is none?

What if you find yourself in a place that struggles with Why mature organizations can’t innovate and Overcoming the Three Big Hurdles to Innovation in Large Organizations?

It is not easy and takes time turning an organization’s mindset from what is into what if.  It’s a great and rewarding achievement, though, if you can pull it off!

Building an Ecosystem

So, let’s continue there:  If you find yourself in a company which does not provide an environment that supports intrapreneuring, you may need to build an innovation ecosystem within a large organization.  Practically, you choose to become a midwife helping ideas of your colleagues getting a chance to come to life.  This enables other aspiring intrapreneurs to step up, unite and act together.

It’s a bold step and disruptive approach but necessary to induce ability to meaningful and fundamental “10x” change again to an organization (see also 10x vs 10% – Are you still ready for breakthrough innovation?) as part of an ambitious Innovation Strategy: Do you innovate or renovate?

Based on my personal experience, here are some key ingredients to succeed following words of Steve Jobs that “Creativity means connecting things.”

sustainable environment consists, at least, of

  • A safe-haven for employees to  experiment
  • perpetual pipeline  of ideas from all areas of the organization,
  • A  process to develop them without triggering the “organizational immune system” early on and
  • A  transition mechanism to feed these ideas back into the regular organization to become funded and implemented with strategic alignment to company goals
  • Preparing management how deal with intrapreneurs. You will need to build or teach
  • A set of relevant  intrapreneurial  skills for employees
  • A  supportive team  and for you to maintain
  • A  positive attitude that you will need to persist and push on.

The “School for Intrapreneurs” (SFI)

A very powerful approach and critical puzzle piece in the ecosystem is the School for Intrapreneurs.  We achieved to build this school successfully together with help from like-minded and supportive colleagues that I was fortunate to meet along my crooked intrapreneurial career path, if you want to call it that.  The underlying premise of the SFI is that innovation skills can be taught, as mentioned in  “How you become the next Steve Jobs!”  – So, we teach them in this program.

In the end, results count or in the words I adopted from Accenture’s advertisement:  “It is not how many ideas you have.  It’s how many you make happen.”

Program Focus

Building intrapreneurial skills systematically, however, is only part of the deal. The real value of the program for the participants lays in experiencing the obstacles an intrapreneur faces in an organization themselves: the rocky road of rejection trying to get an idea on its feet.

We prepare our fellow employees in a process where they form supportive teams to collaborate in order to develop their ideas together and experiment.  This includes ways to communicate with management in constructive and non-threatening ways on How Intrapreneurs avoid “No!”, for example.  It culminates in pitching ideas to experts and potential sponsors for funding, implementation and support.

Executive sponsorship ensures strategic alignment of ideas with company interests.  It also increases the chances dramatically for idea transitions into the established processes of the regular organization, i.e. the idea becoming a project to be implemented.  This is why special emphasis needs to be put on preparing management how to support and benefit from intrapreneurs; after all, there are risks involved with intrapreneuring for the individual (see also  The Rise of the Intrapreneur).

This SFI program design addresses How to grow innovation elephants in large organizations and deliver big results along the lines of 10x vs 10% – Are you still ready for breakthrough innovation?. In fact, the return of the SFI program so far is a 1:10x return-of-investment (ROI), so we are right on 10x.

Building the School for Intrapreneurs together: Stephan Klaschka (left) and Gifford Pinchot III
Building the School for Intrapreneurs together: Stephan Klaschka (left) and Gifford Pinchot III

The three courses build upon each other; we named them DOORWAY, PATHWAY and JOURNEY:

  • DOORWAY is a two-hour awareness course that outlines how innovation happens in large organizations, what typical obstacles are, what is an intrapreneur and already hints towards what is offered in the succeeding courses, PATHWAY and JOURNEY.
  • PATHWAY is in its core an incubator and accelerator over a 12 weeks with a mix of training and group work.  Research suggests that approx. 5% of the workforce have the intrapreneurial spirit, which is consistent with our school’s enrollment numbers.  At the end of the course, the teams pitch their developed ideas to a panel of experts and managers representing different business functions for in-depth feedback and advice how to improve the ideas. – Think “Shark Tank” but without bloody teeth.  Teams with the most promising ideas then pitch to high level executives for sponsorship and support to turn their idea into an implementation project that enters the regular development processes in the organization.  Receiving executive sponsorship is another level of validation that confirms strategy alignment with company interests.
  • JOURNEY is a six-month course designed to accompany the team implementing their ideas by providing a mix of skill-building and team-customized coaching.  – Why is this needed and important?
    Even with executive sponsorship the project has neither been budgeted for nor are other resources planned and available for its implementation; so, the project still disrupts the establishment and may trigger resistance.

Shaping company culture

We also ask JOURNEY participants to connect with the next group going through the PATHWAY course to network, share their experiences and help guiding the “next generation” of graduates.  The goal is to achieve sustainability of the program by growing the number of like-minded, experienced and connected employees over time.

Over time, an increasing number of graduates keep the perpetual pipeline of fresh ideas open.  They also grow to become a powerful, far-reaching and growing network of active change-makers across all parts of the organization as they connect and pass on their knowledge to the next class going through the School for Intrapreneurs.

These are the self-identified leaders of change that share a common innovation terminology, skill-set and experience while they help shaping the organizational culture and mindset on the way towards a sustainable environment, an innovation ecosystem.

Lessons from the School for Intrapreneurs

My key learning from this challenge in a nutshell is as follows:

  • The personal journey and ‘intrapreneurial experience’ is of utmost importance for the School’s participants – a theoretical training alone does not do the trick.  It has to be hands-on and all the way to implementation.
  • This is why the participants value the safe space to operate and experiment in.
  • Typically, talent in large organizations is selected top-down by management.  In contrast, talent self-identifies bottom-up and based on –intrapreneurial- merits though the School for Intrapreneurs.
  • Alumni are hardened by their experience and become part of a growing community of capable and engaged change agents.
  • Successful pitches to executives validate the alignment with company strategy – not only for the individual idea but also broader for the entire program of the School for Intrapreneurs.
  • The program allows gives more disruptive, risky and outside-the-box ideas a chance that otherwise would not have been brought to executive attention, or so our executive sponsors said.
  • The School for Intrapreneurs is part of a larger framework to change company culture over time by cultivating discovery and 10x innovation capabilities once again.

 

Related Links:

Why mature organizations can’t innovate

Why mature organizations can’t innovate

Clayton Christensen is the icon and figurehead of disruptive innovation – after all, it was him who coined the term the first place!  (I am a big fan!)

Now, Professor Christensen concludes that large companies can’t innovate in his famous book “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators” – and I’m out to prove him wrong!

Why? – In part, perhaps, driven by my passion for disruptive challenges but mostly out of compassion for my talented colleagues, and who deserve better; we we work hard every day to save and improve the lives of patients.

There must be a way of turning around a mature organization. After all, IBM reinvented itself several times and turned from a manufacturing to a services company, what a pivot is that!

Getting back to 10x innovation

So, can a mature pharmaceutical company adapt and pivot from within as well?  After all, innovation in ‘pharma’ is commonly understood to find, develop and bring to market new innovative medicinal drugs as the core business.  In a rapidly and fundamentally changing business environment (see “What is Digital Medicine?), however, the “selling pills” model alone runs flat, the company must find and adapt to new business models to survive and flourish.

Time will tell if “10x vs 10% – Are you still ready for breakthrough innovation?” is possible once again.  Question is, can mature organization turn around? And if so, how?

Shift from Discovery to Delivery

It starts with understanding why innovation slows down in maturing organizations (outliers may confirm the rule) but stay with me here to get the basic principle.  The answer lays in the natural business life cycle: in the start-up phase of an new company, the most important skills are around discovery, i.e. to explore a radically new business opportunity.

As the business gains traction and needs to grows, delivery skills are needed most. Management composition needs to change in order to develop and expand the business professionally; disruptive input is not in demand and can becomes rather inhibiting to the operation that needs to focus on delivering output reliably and at scale. Innovation shifts from disruption to incremental improvement and rightly so, yet it comes at a price as it leads to predictable obstacles (see Overcoming the Three Big Hurdles to Innovation in Large Organizations)

Research shows that disruptive innovators are typically not good at delivery and growing the company.  As the business matures, they need help and often move on to do what they do best: starting some new, while the company matures in the hands of management that can deliver.

Downfall

Over time, however, markets get saturated and the established business model may no longer work, profits decline. Now here comes the inflection point: the management was hired for its delivery skills.  They don’t really know how to renew the business, since they never created one.  What they do know is how to prolong the downturn by clinging to the outdated business model while squeezing out inefficiencies and saving cost.  Research confirms, little surprise, that the maturity managers are good at delivery but mediocre at best when it comes to discovery.

The company, a supertanker, became a slowly sinking ship.  Group-think, the mindset and engrained culture, prevents disruption from breaking through.  After all, no passionate out-of-the-box thinker or entrepreneur has been hired for years.  Instead, Ivy League graduates with MBAs are favored that runs the business more administratively, bureaucratically, without taking significant risks – who would ever take the risk and hire a crazy guy, right?

Turning to Intrapreneuring

So, where should the turnaround come from?  Here comes the The Rise of the Intrapreneur!

To connect things again in news ways to create and build an innovation-friendly ecosystem while chipping away the on the resistance of the “organizational immune system.”

Over the next posts we will introduce and explore intrapreneurial methods using the example of a pharmaceutical company and member of the FORTUNE Global 500 club.

Be the next Steve Jobs!

Can you innovate?

It a strange question.  Isn’t it astonishing how many people say “I am not creative” or believe “innovators” are so much different from themselves.  As if innovators are an enlightened lot of geniuses that come up with breakthrough innovations that nobody else could have thought of or made happen but them.  Icons such as Steve Jobs (Apple), Elon Musk (Tesla) or Jeff Bezos (Amazon) stand out.  They apparently think differently and changed the world.

The question for the rest of us is: could I be a Steve Jobs too?  Or do have to be born gifted to be able to innovate in ways that “make a ding in the universe” like Steve Jobs?

Are you a Steve Jobs? (photo credit: http://scrapetv.com/News/News%20Pages/Technology/images/steve-jobs-3g-iphone.jpg)
Are you a Steve Jobs?
(photo credit: http://scrapetv.com/News/News%20Pages/Technology/images/steve-jobs-3g-iphone.jpg)

You can learn creativity!

If you ask kids in kindergarten or preschool if they are creative, they enthusiastically respond “Yes!”  At that age we are convinced we are creative and express our views, thoughts and ideas in many ways.  We design rockets to Mars or create new animals, nothing is out of bounds or out of reach.

What has happened to us that we believe as grown-ups and employees we can no longer create and change the world? I heard “I could never do that” and “nothing will change anyway” too many times.

Good news is that genetic predisposition only attributes one-third to your creativity and innovative-ness (if this is a word), while two-thirds are skills that can be learned, as research confirmed many times over (see Marvin Reznikoff et al, Creative abilities in identical and fraternal twins, Behavior Genetics 3, no. 4, 1973).

Therefore, innovation can be taught, “nurture trumps nature.”  So, you can learn it too!

Are you an intrapreneur or entrepreneur? 

However, not everyone wants to take the risk and uncertainty to make an entrepreneurial dream come true by starting a new business on their own.  Many of us work in large organizations and would like to improve the company from within somehow.

This is where intrapreneuring comes into play.  Intrapreneurs are also called corporate entrepreneurs, since they apply entrepreneurial methods within the organization to create intraprises.   (See also The Rise of the Intrapreneur)

What innovators have in common

So is there anything that great innovators share and which we ‘mortals’ can replicate or do similarly to succeed? – In fact, there is!

In his iconic book “The Innovator’s DNA,” famous disruptive innovation guru Clayton Christensen (who is also known for coining the term ‘disruptive innovation’) identified four common catalysts that sparked the great ideas:

  1. “a question that challenged the status quo,
  2. an observation of a technology, company, or customer,
  3. an experience or experiment where he was trying out something new,
  4. a conversation with someone who alerted him to an important piece of knowledge or opportunity”

This comes down to the four following behaviors, as Christensen found out:  questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting.

Thinking different

While, typically, the underlying information is not unique, the innovator’s associative thinking combines information and connects dots that seem random or unrelated to others.  They create a picture or vision of a need or opportunity to pursue.

Now, on your way to become an intrapreneur (or entrepreneur), how can you get to these insights, find a suitable target and make it happen?

There are two basic steps:

  1. Don’t work alone
  2. Seek a fertile environment.

1. Don’t work alone

An  African proverb says “If you want to walk fast, walk alone; but if you want to walk far, walk together”.  Developing and bringing a disruptive idea to life takes time, work and -more than anything- collaboration.  It’s not a fast shot and you will need help.  What you can do is tapping into more brains: ask others and bring together a diverse team around an idea.  You want to get as many different perspectives to see the fuller picture, risks, needs, opportunities to tackle the problem you are working on.

You may be blindsided or unaware of things critical for your success including much needed political cover, validating your assumptions or technical aspects outside your expertise.  If you try to do everything yourself, you are setting yourself up for failure for a simple reason: you are not an expert in everything!  Stick with what you are good at and let other experts help you with what they are good at.

2. Seek a fertile environment

If you want to start your own business as an entrepreneur, you may want to move where you find the best condition for a supportive business environment, an ecosystem.  For entrepreneurs, for example, Stanford University and Silicon Valley remain a major tech magnets with ample and easy access to top talent and money.  Also accelerators can serve this purpose.  Comparable conditions for an innovative ecosystem exist at the US-East coast in the Boston area.  Depending on your business idea, other locations and ecosystems may be more suitable – do your homework and find the right one for you.

As an intrapreneur, your available ecosystem seems more limited: it typically is the company you work in that defines the perimeter of your freedom to navigate.  Your advantage here can be that you already know the environment and who could be supporting or funding your idea.  If not your, you could more easily ask colleagues for help than people outside your company could, which significantly lowers the bar for access to resources.

Let’s continue by focusing on intrapreneuring.  Compared to the entrepreneurial world out there, within an organization you may have more opportunities to help shape the fertile ecosystem for breakthrough ideas if none exists yet.

Now, if you are stuck with a company that does not provide an environment that supports intrapreneuring, you may consider becoming the innovation leader (see How to become the strategic innovation leader? (part 2 of 3)) to build an ecosystem within a large organization.

– Stay tune to find out how.

Join me at the Customer Experience Summit 2014 in Princeton/NJ on March 6, 2014

Pharma Customer Experience Summit 2014 at The Nassau Inn Hotel, 10 Palmer Square, Princeton, NJ on March 6, 2014

Pharma Customer Experience Summit 2014 at The Nassau Inn Hotel, 10 Palmer Square, Princeton, NJ on March 6, 2014

Join me for the SAPA-CT Milestone Celebration Meeting at Yale University on Feb 22

“Bridging between US and China in Current Pharmaceutical World – Strategies, Innovation and Implementation”

Join me at 11:15am at the Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association‘s new Connecticut Chapter (SAPA-CT) Milestone Celebration Meeting held at Yale University (N107 The Anlyan Center, 300 Cedar St, New Haven, CT, 06511), 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Feb 22, 2014.

SAPA-CT Milestone Celebration Meeting, "Bridging between US and China in Current Pharmaceutical World - Strategies, Innovation and Implementation"
SAPA-CT, Boehringer Ingelheim, BMS, and Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Yale (ACSSY) will co-sponsor this event

Join me in Boston for the Corporate Venturing in the Life Sciences conference this week!

Join me at the Corporate Venturing in the Life Sciences conference this week!
Join me at the Corporate Venturing in the Life Sciences conference this week!