6 Key Traits to Corporate Innovation

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WHAT IF ALL COMPANIES WERE INNOVATIVE? Professor Rajesh Chandy imagines a world where innovative companies are the norm, explaining how to achieve it with six key traits.

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Case study INNOVATION – SAVING THE WORLD? Imagine if the world’s biggest problems, such as poverty, global warming and disease, were solved by businesses as a matter of course. We should imagine conditions like these, because if all companies had innovation in their DNA, they’d have the power to do just that. 2

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Case study CROSS OUT YOUR BELIEFS – START AGAIN Economists believe that R&D expenditure drives radical innovation. Legal scholars think intellectual property’s key, geographers believe countries and regions are and sociologists will tell you that national culture and religion make a big difference. 3

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Case study THE POWER OF THE MIND In fact, what matters more than common beliefs are ‘cultural universals’ – cultural traits that drive innovation. The next three traits all exist under the mind-set and attitude umbrella of innovative companies. 4

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Case study 1 FUTURE MARKET FOCUS To what extent do senior decision-makers in a company focus on the customers and competitors of the future, relative to the customers and competitors of today? This is the most important of all the cultural traits in driving innovation – if you have any takeaway, let this be it. 5

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Case study 2 WILLINGNESS TO CANNIBALISE Innovative companies are more willing to eat their own lunch: they are willing to reduce the value of investments that they themselves have built. Who killed the Apple iPod? Apple did. Cannibalising could involve reducing the value of products, manufacturing, distribution channels, or skills. 6

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Case study 3 TOLERANCE FOR RISK Managers in innovative companies are more tolerant of risks. But how do these companies guard against catastrophic risks? First, they develop portfolios of products: some are radical and risky, but most are relatively safe bets. Second, they don’t take on all risky bets themselves, they seek external help. 7

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Case study PRACTICES: THE POWER OF SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES The next three traits are practices associated with the day-to-day activities of innovative firms. 8

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Case study 1 INCENTIVES FOR ENTERPRISE Innovative companies offer more rewards for innovation. Rewards don’t just involve money: they can involve recognition, autonomy, and greater career progress. Moreover, incentives in innovative companies are asymmetric – the rewards for success are higher than the punishment for failure. 9

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Case study 2 INFLUENTIAL CHAMPIONS In firms that innovate, product and process champions flourish. These individuals are typically good communicators and gregarious in nature, with wide networks, and broad interests. And they are doggedly persistent. 10

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Case study 3 INTERNAL MARKETS Ask how much internal autonomy your company offers. Innovative companies, especially large ones, tend to promote internal autonomy and internal competition. They resemble marketplaces for ideas. 11

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Summary Case study WHAT IT TAKES If ‘cultural universals’ are what it takes for companies to become innovative: could innovation save the world? That’s another debate. 12

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The full blog post was published on London Business School Review online. Visit the website: www.london.edu/lbsr

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