Corporate Innovation is not easy. While most of the companies out there claim to be innovative, it is only a minority of them that are able to systematically create value through their novel products, services, or business models.
There are companies that only scratch the surface of innovation – they focus on ‘appearing innovative’ - while others try hard to foster innovation but with no success. In practice, even the most expensive, well-thought innovation programs and sophisticated innovation labs often fail to produce real innovation outcomes. Considering that there are plenty of ‘tested’ and ‘proven’ methods and recipes for innovation, this leads to an interesting quest for the missing element that prevents companies from becoming truly innovative.
Reflecting on my experience across various multinationals, technology startups, and big tech companies, I would argue that the single most important success factor of corporate innovation is a vivid environment characterized by ‘diversity of thought’ and a special ‘discovery mode’.
In such an environment there is both plurality of ideas - coming from all directions and across the hierarchy - and the readiness to exploit them - the ability to consider novel ideas as drivers of business success. The former requires inspired, capable people who believe in the organizational purpose and engage ‘naturally’ with innovation activities. The latter requires the right innovation capabilities along with a special leadership style that supports a continual ‘opportunity discovery’ function. Such a business setup inspires creative minds across the hierarchy of the organization – it brings together scientists, domain experts, technologists, and business leaders as a single force, a cross-disciplinary team that works and innovates ‘naturally’ towards big, meaningful organizational objectives.
This principle of ‘diversity of thought’ was precisely the source of inspiration for producing this very special book. I envisioned ‘60 Leaders on Innovation’ as a synthesis of expert views against a fixed set of ‘tough’ innovation questions -- answered not by a single ‘innovation authority’, but by active leaders across disciplines, industries, and geographies. Interestingly, these perspectives are not always in perfect agreement or alignment - and this is the beauty of this initiative.
The book is organized into 22 chapters. Each chapter presents one question and multiple answers reflecting a variety of backgrounds and standpoints. Some of the questions focus on the characteristics of innovative companies - for example, we asked our leaders ‘What makes a company innovative?’ or ‘How is innovation different in the startup world?’. Other questions target the essential innovation methods and digital tools, the skills that aspiring innovators need to have, the role of business experimentation, and the interlink of agile product development and innovation.
We also asked questions about the role of the C-Suite in empowering innovation, the importance of a strong innovation culture, and how a community of innovators could play a role in a corporate environment. We challenged the need for a Chief Innovation Officer, and we unpacked one of the most popular business buzzwords of our time: ‘Digital Transformation’. Finally, we looked at the future and asked how innovation can help humanity solve the big problems of our time.
This book brings together unique insights and ‘practical wisdom’ on corporate innovation. I am extremely grateful to the 60 leaders – the amazing group of academics, business leaders, technologists, investors, and start-up founders who made this ‘crazy idea’ a reality. I am also grateful to Robin Nessensohn, my partner in this project, who believed in this idea and committed to making it happen.
A project made of pure passion for innovation from 63 people across the globe.