Paul Campbell’s extensive background in corporate innovation has provided him with the experience to create an set of frameworks that companies can adopt. Not unlike the Lean startup way that Eric Reis discussed on Day 2, the approach centers on “deconstruction”, or challenging the norms in which the company regularly operates to align better with the speed and appetite for risk that is needed for innovation. The bigger the impact desired, the more deconstruction across the corporation is needed. This again highlighted to what by day 3 emerged as a big theme of the sessions: the need for structural changes in companies to support innovation, as bolt-on, grass roots efforts separated from the core did not yield the results desired.
Paul also demonstrated the use of a scorecard he’d designed that assessed whether companies were going far enough in their innovation pursuits. The scorecard categorizes strategy and culture as foundational layers of innovation, and 5 pillars of innovation that link the two:
- Open innovation
- Lean innovation and accelerators
- Design thinking
- Business Model innovation
By diagnosing how well each of these elements were able to function within the corporate design, Paul’s examples illustrated how different approaches toward ramping up certain activities drove companies toward innovation success. An important takeaway for me was that no one approach works better than the other, and really companies should look to leverage all the different tools to ensure that they don’t miss out on opportunities.
Another important theme through out the conference was the importance of culture. Paul pointed out how the culture at W.L. Gore was supportive of innovation by giving individual ownership of ideas and allowing them to pursue their own projects without the risk to their day jobs. His experiences demonstrated that organizations need to be set up holistically to support innovation activities – whether it is through organic company values and culture or through intentional deconstruction.
Reflections at the end of the conference:
The BEI conference brought together thought leaders, practitioners and an ecosystem of providers that support innovation. As a first time attendee of this conference, I have a few takeaways:
- Unique venues make great ice breakers: The appropriately named Unexpected Gallery at Phoenix provided one of the most interesting backdrops for a corporate event I’ve seen. With unconventional art inside and graffiti walls outside, the venue set the tone for the conference to be more casual and open, and while the art was not everyone’s taste, it provided for some great conversation, and the unconventionality of it all was apt for a group of innovators
- Ideas are not the issue – it’s what you do with it: Execution on innovation involves hard choices and decisions, and having a consistent, way to do so with transparency and repeatability in process is becoming an important issue for companies.
- Corporations as is, aren’t set up to innovate: We know this intuitively, but two of the keynote speakers – Eric Ries and Paul Campbell discussed this openly, and the challenge now becomes, how do you get your entire organization equipped to handle innovation? It likely takes a committed leadership and/or a market imperative that leaves no options
- Getting in front of the customer fast is critical: Minimal viable products, crowdfunding, learning machines – over the course of 3 days, I heard about a number of different ways that companies are using early on in their innovation products so that they are not innovating in a vacuum. The market feedback is a critical step to validating any assumptions that are made early on, and companies recognize the need for this.
- Culture matters: Innovation doesn’t just happen – it needs to be groomed, nurtured, coached, rewarded and embedded into the fabric of the company
The BEI experience is an opportunity for practitioners and those that work with them, like myself, to better understand the tools and tactics being used to drive innovation. This is a rapidly evolving space with new tools and frameworks being demonstrated, but regardless of the tools you use, the fundamental principles for success are really the same, and the hardest to achieve – building the right culture and giving people the tools to succeed.