There is a substantial list of famous corporate failures in driving entrepreneurial innovation – from Kodak’s refusal to go digital to Nokia’s missing out on smartphones. And these examples are typical in that digitization has added quite some cases to the list. However, that is not the full story. There are also famous counter-examples of corporate entrepreneurism proving successful under attack from new entrants. Just think of Walmart which set itself ahead of eBay in US e-commerce and successfully defends its position as largest US retailer against Amazon. Or take Nike building tight and profitable relationships with consumers through an array of apps and social commerce.
Getting it right
Initiating and implementing corporate innovation is certainly not easy. The legacy of past and current success and the established organization, methods and systems are in the way. One necessary condition for success is to ask the right questions at the right time: What are customers’ preferences, and what new options exist to cater to them? And then: What would these options do to our business? If you invert the order of these two questions, you end up like Kodak rejecting digital photography because it did not use celluloid. Even with the right answers, as always, the real challenge is execution, i.e. to get it done. And to get it done the right way because success and failure are often close (see Altavista vs. Google, Friendster vs. Facebook).
If there was a manual providing safe guidance to successful entrepreneurial innovation it would not be worth innovating. Anybody would do it and the rewards would be small. Successful innovation is so rewarding because there is no such manual. Each case is essentially different and takes new, original thinking. Of course, some established wisdom exists to be taken into account. Essentially, however, entrepreneurial success is about who does it. That’s why some investors look more at the people in a start-up than its business plan. So, here comes an essential difference between a start-up and an innovating corporation. The latter has a team in place, the former custom-builds it around the innovation. Some corporations have taken to emulate start-ups by creating things like innovation labs with customized teams, often of mixed origin: from the corporation and from a (cleverly selling) consultancy.
Greenfield vs. organic innovation
At Cocomore we do not favor this greenfield approach. For one good reason: Big corporations are big because they got something right. Where start-ups have to struggle for scaling corporations already have scale. We know what we are talking about as Cocomore is not only a digital agency but also a start-up incubator. Therefore, we recommend our large corporate clients to even radically innovate from inside their existing businesses. That’s the fast lane of successful disruption. If done well. It’s challenging, of course, to have the right mix of entrepreneurial minds and competencies for start-up-like innovation when you operate a legacy business at the same time. That’s why we act as our clients’ co-entrepreneurs in these instances. Knowing clients’ legacy business we co-develop with them new businesses and approaches. E.g. that can be messenger commerce for a leading brand, a new digital B2B service or an innovative production unit.
Cocomore Business Builders and Tech POs
We aspire for this co-entrepreneurial attitude to be pervasive throughout our company. To support it we are creating now two special units labeled Cocomore Business Builders (in short: CO/BB) and Cocomore Tech POs (in short: CO/TPO). The Business Builders are initiators, inventors and business product owners of start-up-like innovations in partnership with our large corporate clients. The Tech POs make these innovations become technical reality through leading-edge software architectures and consequent implementation. As said, organic innovations in corporations offer major opportunities. That’s true for all who contribute and especially for those who lead the effort. As a Business Builder in CO/BB or Tech PO in CO/TPO you can be such a leader. If that makes you tick, have a look here: Business Builder, Tech PO.