After 4 years the journey is still exciting
Updated: Mar 31, 2021
I have been working in an Innovation lab since June 2016. This has been an amazing journey where we have learned about the success and pitfalls that many similar organization have experienced. We had classical oscillation for couple years between two missions, the generation of the next business and the entrepreneurial transformation of the corporation. Today, we are moving into a model fully focused on new ventures creation, their growth and scale into profitable future business.
Back in the first years, we experienced the classic stretch between being a science business incubator and being a mindset transformation engine for a changing the company culture. We have served many purposes for the executive leadership and at the same time, we have received many critics from business units operational staff.
Transformation engine - The company made over 20 billions dollars of companies acquisitions and integration in the last 5 years while divesting 3 business units. An Innovation Lab, neutral and central was playing a strong symbol for building a new forward thinking and agile culture with newly integrated colleagues.
New business incubator - We have hosted more than 50 early stage external start-ups learning from their ecosystem and have generated over 50 internal concepts considered for venture seed funding.
Tendayi Viki is an influent strategist on corporate innovation with a long list of articles. He describes very well the two contradictory objectives of an innovation lab:
I personally had a lot of frustration not identifying well to be splitted into two roles, one for creating new business and one for changing the company culture. Furthermore, it created many conflicts for colleagues working only on one side or the other. The creative one working on integrating entrepreneurship, agile, lean-start-up culture and the more analytics ones implementing project management and tracking KPIs progress. We had recently a reorg. with the transformation activities being today integrated in the business units. Our focus is now on new business incubation with ambition to adopt further most of the entrepreneurs and start-up practices.
Interestingly, with help of mentors, we are close to build an hybrid organization. More than that, we aim for a dual organisation (Kotter on Innovation): Our end to end innovation process work across a dedicated hierarchy of units and employees while we have an informal network for collaboration and transversal activities. This is still "work in progress" because the current model requires both control and empowerment.
My wish is to support, in the future, the Head of Innovation Lab & New Business Incubator to build more synergies across our project teams and coordinate a formal network of transversal initiatives . This new working model would increase engagement to our continuing journey of innovation.