Innovation is always thought of as a reserve for startups. But large companies are now going big in innovation. The pandemic forced them to change their operation and are now prioritizing innovation.
According to a report by Boston Consulting Group, 75% of companies have prioritized innovation. As a result, most of these companies generate significant revenue growth from products launched within the last three years. Some of the best performing and innovative big companies include Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, and Tesla.
Loosely put, large companies are not relaxing and getting comfortable. They are not sitting pretty, waiting for disruption, but rather being ready to be the disruptor. You can also follow suit and further improve your performance as your peers.
Here are ways how large companies can also become innovators.
1. Develop an Innovation Culture
From the Boston Consulting Group’s top innovative large companies, big tech giants make the top 5. Apple leads the pack, followed by Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Even Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, ranked 10th on the list.
There is one thing common amongst these top-list innovative big companies. They have a deep innovation culture within their organizations. For example, Apple has been a trailblazer in new captivating products that have proven difficult to imitate. And that applies to all three categories: products, software, and services.
The leadership at Apple drives the innovation culture. Under Steve Jobs and his predecessors, the company has produced products that have a compelling design, aesthetic, and usability. The organization’s design and leadership have been vital in instilling an innovation culture.
Tesla is another large firm with a relentless focus on product innovation. Its unveiling of the durable and bullet-proof Cybertruck is one of Tesla’s proof of its innovation culture. All its policies are aimed at leveraging innovation.
Other companies beyond the tech industry are also driving an innovation culture. For example, Pfizer managed to handle covid-19 vaccine development within a year. Remember, it takes an average of 10 years to develop a vaccine. Pfizer’s innovation readiness and commitment thus made vaccine development faster. It also expanded production capacity to manage the pandemic.
However, transformation in small and large companies is met with resistance from all levels. McKinsey reports that you need at least 7% of employees to act as catalysts for culture transformation.
But, you may still face challenges in unlocking the true innovation potential of your team and the entire organization. Kromatic emphasizes a radical approach by training the entire workforce on an innovation mindset. You can easily reinforce an innovation culture from leaders to employees with innovation coaching.
2. Develop Innovation Support Systems and Processes
With the right innovation culture in place, you can develop a solid innovation foundation. You need a guide and detailed plan on how you search for problems and react to disruptive trends. Otherwise, your well-intentioned innovation may fail before even seeing the market.
For example, you have several innovative projects competing for your attention and resources. How do you prioritize and get maximum value from the projects? How do you handle competing and conflicting perspectives from innovation teams?
You can have a hassle-free process with the appropriate innovation strategy. The strategy will set goals and required resources. It will also design the workflows for innovation teams.
Systems that support employee engagement can be instrumental in online brainstorming sessions. Also, a solid innovation program can drive fast experimentation of ideas and create minimum viable product (MVP) templates. Hence, you can quickly qualify the best-performing innovative projects and release them into the market.
So, develop the right innovation infrastructure to make innovation simple. You can develop your accelerator hubs with the right innovation culture and infrastructure.
3. Invest in Autonomous Accelerators
Accelerators are intensive programs designed to scale your established business. They are fix-term programs and can help you:
- Define and develop your initial products;
- Research on the best and most promising consumer segment; and
- Get resources, inclusive of capital and a workforce.
It is always challenging to grow big and still be competitive as a startup in most cases. But, you can set up your accelerator and incubator to take care of your innovation. Several large companies have accelerators and incubators that drive their competitive edge.
For example, Google X is a semi-secret research and development firm funded by Google. Semi-autonomous cars are one of their products. Also, Disney has an accelerator program to drive innovation into its business.
It is worth noting that there are effective ways of getting the best innovative products from these accelerators. The best way to do that is by giving them autonomy. Giving people control of their destiny can unlock their full potential to pursue their ideas. So, give them autonomy but keep them connected to your parent company.
Alternatively, you can fund major supply chain players in your industry to gain from their advanced innovation. For example, Apple has invested $410 million in II-IV, a leader in high-tech optical technology.
No matter how you want to look at it, you can remain innovative by leveraging others. Create your accelerator or incubator and give the autonomy to deliver their best. Alternatively, you can tap on supply chain partners to leverage what they are best at.
4. Build Business Agility
All the above ingredients should be enough to get started in your innovation journey. But, you need something that glues them together to maximize the impact of innovation. Your leadership, organizational culture, technical capacity, and business processes should be in sync.
Synchronizing these elements helps you achieve business agility. Business agility allows you to respond to rapid business changes accordingly. Whenever one of the elements is missing, you may fail to respond fast enough to industry changes. Netflix’s business agility made it out-compete Blockbuster because it had aligned all four elements.
So, go beyond developing innovation culture, processes, and technical capacity. Make sure all these elements are in-sync with your leadership.
Like startups, large companies can also innovate and further scale their operations. Apple, Tesla, and Pfizer are doing it, and so can you. There are a couple of ways to drive innovation in your large companies.
You should develop organizational culture, build business processes and invest in accelerators. Finally, drive seamless synchronization between culture, processes, and technical capacity with leadership.