Innovation: Be Bold, Be Agile, But Build Trust

What’s the one word comes to your mind when you hear: Innovation? Change. Change means transformation, revolution, new product, novelty, unconventionality, a shakedown etc. etc. That’s the perception we have about innovation (mainly technological innovation). But is the CHANGE easy to conceive or develop or implement? No, not at all. Change is the most resistive transformation.

Recent analysis of the innovation by Zhi Ying Barry, analyst – digital business at Forrester based on their research on the digital transformation feedback of the corporate:

“If you have a digital initiative that is not linked to any tangible ROI or any tangible business metrics then they will be culled. We have seen in the past year many different firms they have either scaled back on their innovation projects or they have shut down their innovation labs, recently Qantas shut down their innovation centre. Even if you have an innovative project, service, experience or product that you want to roll out to your customers, do not assume your stakeholders will understand the value of what you’re trying to deliver whether or not it is a new business model you are working on or it is a new type of revenue stream.”

The rise of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and autonomous vehicles present interesting opportunities to undertake many large-scale systemic challenges.

But a lack of understanding of the technologies, unreliable legacy systems, and the fear of the negative effects of these technologies are restraining their implementation.

Rejection of the status quo, boldness in thinking and agility in execution are some key attributes required to deliver innovation beyond the tech labs to the marketplace. And innovation labs can help the businesses and ecosystem.

Significant innovation has rarely been driven by companies that settle with their successes. In order for well-established businesses to reject the status quo, they need to have a burning desire to better their successes.

Boldness and courage of conviction are required for such solutions to become reality. Or they remain bright ideas tucked away and failing to attract the investment and other resources required to deliver the vision. Such boldness in thinking must be embodied by the leaders. Large well-established businesses that tend to become risk averse for a number of reasons. They typically have capital market constraints, large legacy revenues and profits and significantly underestimate the cost of inaction.

Innovation and disruption need to be driven by all functions and departments of the business and not just in secret technology labs. Innovation should flow throughout the organization

It is crucial to build stronger links between governments that regulate technology, academic world that nurtures new technologies, and industry that builds technology. The approach needs to be taken to bridge the divide between academic world, industry and government, which is hindering the adoption of innovative technology.

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, says that stakeholders need to adopt an “agile governance” model for regulating technology and making constant adjustments with its evolution. Agile teams that constantly evaluate and fine-tune policies to enable the adoption of new technologies will provide a strategic advantage within governments and organisations.

Agility and flexibility to find alternate paths towards the end goal are essential. Course corrections are often required and unanticipated problems must be solved. Resilience, “never-say-die” attitudes and lateral approaches to problem solving are essential. Empowered, highly motivated and aligned teams typically find solutions to the most intractable challenges.

Engaging early and developing a continuous feedback loop between the various stakeholders can lead to faster commercialization and a stronger opportunity. Some of the examples are:

  • The rise of Crypto Valley in Switzerland is a good example of how government policies have removed regulatory roadblocks to allow a fast-evolving ecosystem of crypto products and services to thrive, fuelled by large amounts of private investment supporting the regulations.
  • The success of the thriving ecosystems for AI in China, healthcare in Switzerland and drones in Israel, are partly due to government spending in these areas over the past decade and an ecosystem that has closely supported researchers and entrepreneurs with grants and collaboration opportunities.

Innovation Lab has become a very trendy feature among corporate digital transformation projects. Corporate have developed their own innovation labs to work with new technologies or they have designed a collaborative approach to support startups and entrepreneurs to nurture their disruptive ideas. In both ways, it is working towards adoption of the new technologies.

Innovation labs are also being utilized to educate, train and learn the new digital skills because most of the corporate and government bodies are struggling to find the right talent, digital skills for their digital transformation and technology implementation.

  • The Fintech Innovation Lab’s growth mirrors the rising interest and investments in the fintech sector in Asia Pacific, where funding jumped to US$22.3 billion in the first nine months of 2018, compared with US$6.9 billion in all of 2017, according to Accenture analysis of data from CB Insights.
  • The FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific is modelled on the FinTech Innovation Lab New York, which Accenture co-founded in 2010 with the Partnership Fund for New York City, the US$150 million investment arm of the Partnership for New York City.
  • Globally, the FinTech Innovation Labs’ alumni companies have raised US$1.5 billion in venture capital financing.
  • Three global banks (Bank of China, Australia’s Westpac, Deutsche Bank) and Singapore Airlines open innovation labs in Singapore
  • DXC Technology, the world’s leading independent, end-to-end IT services company, announced the opening of the DXC Digital Innovation Lab in Singapore.

Any innovation is successful if it is inclusive, building trust, and has values and return on investment. So it is must for the leadership to have clear vision, strategies, planning and road map to achieve the goal of the innovation or innovation labs.

  • Do your Innovation Lab strategies have clear road map on any tangible or non-tangible ROI?
  • Have you initiated any ‘time bound’ targets for your team to achieve?
  • Have you breakdown your strategies to achieve short term goals to boost the confidence of the team and build trust with stakeholders?
  • Do you have any road map to encounter the failures as any innovation or research on new technology / product is bound to have failures as part of the project?

Most of the time, despite of best resources, best talent and renowned consulting companies on board, we fail for various reasons. One of the reasons is no return on investment (ROI).