Toward a "Dual & Ambidextrous" Corporate Innovation Management Framework
Updated: Mar 31
With such a title, we got 2 or 3 bullshit bingo buzzwords and thus we already lost the majority of our industry professionals.
Just wait... there are a lot of thoughts here, as well as some learning from our organisation.. and to be honest, I believe that we are evolving into one of the most advanced innovation lab among other industry players in Europe. This article is also a reflection after reading an inspiring model on dual innovation from one the field expert: https://dual-innovation.net/future-proof-innovation-management-dual-innovation/
As an introduction, I work for an industry company, diversified and divided into a few unrelated core business units. At the crossroad of several business units, we have established our deeptech innovation lab. We are leveraging technological and commercial capabilities and combine them across business unit into a unique set-up. Our innovation lab aims to put enabling deep technologies to the market that serves as nucleus to grow new business platforms. We know already that our deep technologies will need time to access the market (as compared to digital labs) and therefore we expect to top our major revenues in 10 years period.
To achieve this goal we have built an corporate innovation structure that we can call "Dual & Ambidextrous" in reference to two merged innovation models from academia:
The Dual Operating System by John Kotter - Providing a Collaboration Core completing the hierarchy of our organization - https://hbr.org/2012/11/accelerate
The Ambidextrous Organization by Charles O’Reilly and Michael Tushman - Defining an Exploration & Exploitation end to end process of our organization - https://hbr.org/2004/04/the-ambidextrous-organization
Illustration: Michelangelo - Sistine Chapel - duality & ambidexterity
When looking for new business, large corporation have no choice but to innovate. There are therefore two options that can be approached together or separately for Exploration:
Serendipity Opportunities - here we consider internal assets that could be repurposed into a new business in an entrepreneurial manner
Strategic Focus Fields - those are focus areas aligned with the existing business units but looking at a longer and more risky horizon
Those two approaches will identify many concepts that could mature, for some of them, into new business projects within our New Business Incubator. The grow an scale of those innovation projects happen during the Exploitation.
Within our end to end process, the transition of projects between Exploration & Exploitation should happen as smooth as possible. The difficulty comes from the profile of employees supporting the different stage of maturity, it is rare to find someone who excels under high uncertain front end, as well as deliver with strong execution skills. Those transition are therefore better supported by transversal and diverse teams which belong to the so called Collaboration Core. For a defined time period, employees could be partly detached to a transversal and cross functional team. Here are some examples:
administrative logistics assistants team
concepts exploration taskforce
founders & co-founders exploitation club
One of the main advantage of the Collaboration Core is to break subunits silos around common goals that benefit the whole organisation. You create an informal network independant from hierarchy, more agile and action driven with mandate to ease projects maturation and identify efficient new approaches.
We have summarized the End to End process for innovation connecting the Exploration of Strategic Focus Fields & Serendipity Opportunities and the Exploitation into projects in the New Business Incubator using a Collaboration Core for efficient growth & scale.
Here Exploration activities are run in parallel at Discovery stage and start to be pulled together at the Incubation stage to start Exploitation and further Acceleration to the market. For a smooth transition along this end to end process, team members are pulled together into the Collaboration Core to organize autonomously across the Innovation Lab divisions in order to ease the best projects to mature into promising new ventures.
Established a year ago in this set-up, our Innovation lab has fully adopted a structure "Dual & Ambidextrous" allowing different profiles, diverse backgrounds and mindsets to work together toward a common goal of generating ambitious new businesses.
To further investigate this topic, we recommend the following articles:
Discover-Incubate-Accelerate from Gina O'Connor https://hbr.org/2019/12/real-innovation-requires-more-than-an-rd-budget
The Explore and Exploit continuum from Strategyzer https://www.strategyzer.com/blog/the-explore-and-exploit-continuum