Navigating the Corporate Innovation Landscape

Over the past few months I’ve been working with the smart folk at AAR on a project to look at the evolving innovation partner market in the UK, the output of which is a report which is just out and free to download. It’s obviously a rapidly developing space and (to my knowledge) there’s nothing else out there that has attempted to look at the landscape in this way so it was a fascinating piece of work to do. I also got to interview a whole range of client and consultancy-side innovation specialists which was hugely insightful.

The full findings can be found in the report of-course, but here’s a few more off-the-cuff observations that came out of the work:

  1. Approaches to innovation:- I write about the shift towards continuous innovation in the report, and it’s important to stress that this is no small change within corporates. Gone are the days where innovation happens at the edges. It’s now increasingly seen as a core organisational competency and this is reflected in the desire to change behaviours and cultures as well as operating models and processes.
  2. Market scope:- the sheer diversity of options now open to clients made it a difficult but fascinating job to categorise the different types of partnership opportunity available. I framed an understanding of this around the innovation process (using Schumpeter’s model for innovation which focuses on invention, commercialisation and scaling) but it was too simplistic to map individual players, or types of consultancy to specific jobs-to-be-done. The nuances of their capabilities mean that smart partner selection involves a more sophisticated approach to understanding what each partner type would have as a core competency, and where they might be perhaps stretching their capability or have approaches which are not an exact fit. The market is maturing and as it does client companies can make better decisions about matching specific consultancies and partners with specific needs. For this reason we defined partner selection in terms of solution, process and culture fit
  3. Blurred lines:- so there are blurred lines still between categorisations and competencies (a service design outfit for example, could easily find themselves on a pitch list alongside a large management consultancy one day and a pure-play innovation consultancy the next), but there are also blurred lines between innovation and transformation. Projects which ostensibly begin as innovation engagements can broaden in scope to begin to define a new way of working for a large organisation and even support change towards a new operating model 

There’s a ton of other interesting things that came out in the research so do go and download the full report. My thanks to AAR and to Robin Charney in particular for commissioning me on such a fascinating piece of work.