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06.04.2019 #news

Teaching Elephants to Dance: How to Design for Corporate Innovation?

Teaching Elephants to Dance: How to Design for Corporate Innovation?

Open a copy of Wired and you will find no end to the innovative new products and awe-inspiring entrepreneur stories, but often it is difficult to see how this can apply to established companies. Corporates are built to self-sustain, and it’s often not in their culture to take risks, which is essential for innovation and long-term growth. Many also find that, unless you are Google or Amazon, it may be difficult to find the right people and skill set to innovate.

In the past 2 years, one of the big 6 energy companies acquired a number of renewable energy tech companies, but found it difficult to drive product and proposition development from within. Often it wasn’t the lack of ideas, but the difficulty in picking the right ideas and driving them forward. As each team brings a unique insight and niche, they often have their own blind spots – be it customer focus, feasibility or commerciality. Not to mention the added challenge of balancing needs across different geographies, and between long strategic investments and immediate gain.

By understanding the firm’s unique challenges, and drawing inspiration from best practices across start-ups and corporates in different sectors, we created a bespoke new product development process together. We helped them drill down to what management really needed to know to make decisions, and how to quickly validate assumptions (such as willingness to pay), to make the process as agile and iterative as possible.

We took leading methodology, such as the Amazon way of asking staff to write a hypothetical press release when pitching new products, and tailored it to suit the company’s needs. The balance of pragmatism and ambition was maintained, as the process was iterated through feedback from across their organisation, asking questions like “What if there are no meetings and everything is done online?” to challenge corporate norms.

Creating a nice sounding process is one thing, but we’ve all heard of how they flop once they launch. By designing easy-to-use templates that anyone (from interns to senior execs) can work with, the tools empower staff to explore ideas in more detail and consider all the essential elements – such as customer needs, commerciality and feasibility. Operations and communities are created to ensure the idea creator has access to the right people – be they experts or customers  and are supported throughout the process.

The result? “We have a process which is a great balance between leading edge best practice and our needs as a business. I am really excited to start using it!” – Customer Strategy Manager. And we can’t wait to see the new innovations coming from them, too!