Corporate Innovation Talent Strategy: Intrapreneurship, Universities, and Acquisitions

By Jeremiah Owyang and Jaimy Szymanski

Corporations are struggling to keep pace with technology trends, but the real innovation challenge lies in their internal culture. In other words? The “tech issue” isn’t an issue! According to our recent survey, the top challenge companies face in corporate innovation is fostering an internal culture of experimentation and innovation (57%).

Truly innovative companies focus on setting a foundation with the right people and empowering them, as well as governance, before large investments take place that lack direction, resources, or goals. These corporations are diversifying their hiring strategies in the face of rapidly disruptive technologies, consumer adoption of related trends, and the advent of new business models that emerge from the two. In order to remain competitive in an environment that embraces rapid startup innovation, corporations must focus both internally (on existing talent) and externally (on acquiring new talent) to build their talent pools.

In our latest Crowd Companies report available on Slideshare, “The Corporate Innovation Imperative: How Large Corporations Avoid Disruption by Strengthening Their Ecosystem,” we uncovered three distinct manners in which the most mature corporations approach hiring innovative employees: Intrapreneurship Programs; Technology Education / University Partnerships; and Startup Acquisitions. In the full report available to Crowd Companies members, you’ll also find case examples from corporations that have found success.

Intrapreneur Program
Internal employees — dubbed “intrapreneurs” — are given a platform and resources to innovate. These programs invest in employees’ ideas and passions to unlock everything from customer experience improvements to product enhancements and full-blown internal startups that are then launched from within the company. Intrapreneurship programs are an effective and cost-efficient way to surface ideas and shape your business without the need to purchase expensive startups or hire external talent or vendors. They enable rank-and-file employees to contribute to a culture of innovation.

Technology Education / University Partnership
Through an educational partnership, corporations can tap into new university graduates, early-stage projects and companies, and the network of an established educational institution. In addition to traditional universities, there are new private versions opening up that are dedicated solely to technology training, like Galvanize and General Assembly. Partnering with educational institutions provides corporations with a first look at breaking technologies and how they’ll impact our culture through an academic lens. These partnerships are an effective way to secure new talent about to enter the marketplace.

Startup Acquisition
Rather than build innovation from the inside, some corporations acquire successful startups and integrate. While expensive, the startup is often already successful, and the acquisition can help the startup scale further. Acquiring startups showcases a corporation’s focus on the future and evolving its products, services, and customer experiences to meet new expectations. Stanford also shared with us that some companies experiencing a hard time hiring software talent have used “acqui-hiring” to bring people into the company. It can be a useful way to acquire talented employees along with new technologies.

Advanced Companies Focus on People Before Programs
Corporations that retool their hiring strategy to meet the evolving talent needs of their innovation programs will reap the rewards of crafting an innovation team (or “center of excellence”) that has the expertise, experience, and drive to incite change. Our survey also uncovered that dedicated innovation teams (79%), innovation centers of excellence (61%), and technology education / university partnerships (54%) are the most commonly deployed corporate innovation programs (see figure below). This shows that companies are first focusing internally on building the right teams, getting governance and processes in place, and educating current and new employees on emerging technologies before spending time and resources on rolling out external programs or investing in the startup scene.

 

Other best practices from advanced organizations include:

  • Mature corporations understand that an innovation program is only as good as the employees behind it. Follow in the footsteps of corporations like Verizon, which have multiple innovation teams in various business units, each with talented members dedicated to both ideation and execution. This helps them move efficiently to prototype and launch new innovations.
  • Also focus on talent retention, as there’s a commonplace and ever-present threat that your best and brightest will be poached (or, at the very least, approached) by competing corporations or startups. Leaders at mature organizations consistently ask themselves, “Are we doing enough to keep our most innovative employees happy?” The most effective incentives tie employee progress on innovation KPIs directly to pay structure.
  • Finally, we found that the most advanced companies receive a dedicated budget from the CEO to ensure company-wide support of innovation as a long-lasting cultural mandate––even if the company is not performing well financially.

The Key Ingredients for Successful Corporate Innovation

Welcome, this industry newsletter shares key market changes, in a twice-monthly publication, curated by Jeremiah Owyang, Founder of Crowd Companies™, you can subscribe to the email newsletter on the footer of the homepage.

Top Takeaways From the ‘Corporate Innovation Imperative’
Well-respected innovation strategy designer Justin Lokitz has filtered some essential insights from Crowd Companies’ report on “The Corporate Innovation Imperative: How Large Corporations Avoid Disruption By Strengthening Their Ecosystem” through his own experiences. To truly innovate, companies must: (1) grapple directly with a culture change that thrives on leveraging new tools, skills, and mindsets; (2) wrangle middle managers into embracing the same vision of innovation as senior leaders before introducing it to employees; (3) chase temporary initiatives until they become “repeatable and scalable business models;” (4) venture beyond innovation as mere PR or marketing by way of a concrete vision and clear goals; and (5) come to grips with the fact that the best approach to innovation is the one that fits best. Read more of Lokitz’s observations on LinkedIn.

Uber Freight Shifts Into Gear
After revving up its new app for long-haul trucking, Uber recently shifted Uber Freight into gear. Now, once truck drivers are properly vetted, they can gain access to an endless stream of potential loads needing to be shipped. Like the ride-sharing app, Uber Freight streamlines the sometimes complex process of finding and booking freight. And it also helps dismantle discriminatory roadblocks for women and people of color. Uber Freight may be one of the first on the road, but it still faces potential competition from Amazon, which is developing a similar service, and other makers of autonomous trucking technology, which aim to disrupt the transportation industry. Read more about the debut of Uber Freight on The Verge.

Cooking Up the Next Silicon Valley
For those who wish that creating the next Silicon Valley was as easy as whipping up an exciting new culinary dish, Crowd Companies Founder Jeremiah Owyang has synthesized a family secret and much experience working with innovative companies into a tried-and-true recipe. He not only articulates the proper selection of choice ingredients like culture, education, investment, density, and quality of life, but also instructs how to optimally mix, cook, season, and serve the irresistible taste of successful innovation. Read the full recipe on his blog, Web Strategist.


We want to hear from you! What are the market impacts of this week’s news stories? Email Crowd Companies™ Founder Jeremiah Owyang directly to share your thoughts.


Image from Pexels used under Creative Commons license.

Future Mobility Offers Freedom in a Connected World

Alongside the BMW Group’s envisioning of the next 100 vehicles, Crowd Companies Founder Jeremiah Owyang helped express the motivation for corporate cultural transformations that shift vehicle manufacturers into mobility service providers in order to fit the mold of the future that young people expect rather than engineer tomorrow based on yesterday. That future ought to blend technology and emotion into what BMW has codified as its ACES: vehicles that are autonomous, connected, electrified, and shareable.

Take, for example, the MINI, a shared, self-expressive “Facebook on wheels.” The current challenge is meeting such a vision with the standards expected by today’s young corporate citizens. But with radical, creative innovation from passionate workforces, success here would steer mobility toward becoming a service that creates freedom — with no driver’s licenses — and moves us to the connected world we want.

Learn more from the event on the following video:

BMW: In Dialog with the Future

How to share with just friends.

Posted by Facebook on Friday, December 5, 2014

Crowd Companies European Summit, Amsterdam: Brands Collaborate on Challenges and Opportunities

by Carl Bohlin, Sr. Member Sucess Manager

Council Members gathered in Amsterdam for 1.5 days to discuss innovation at our first European Summit of 2017. The group started the experience with excursions to ShareNL and Startupbootcamp prior to our Member Dinner.  

Amsterdam is at the forefront of the sharing economy and environmentalism efforts.  Our excursion started at ShareNL where they discussed assisting through education, and start-up guidance.  Members also participated in an interactive discussion with start-ups to understand more the opportunities brands could have with them.  Council members challenged startups to combine and collaborate across sharing platforms to enhance the user experience and value.  We also discussed how consumer adoption of the sharing lifestyle and respective platforms was more of a priority to startups than regulations.  

Startupbootcamp provides guidance, structure and a formalized process for innovation.  Bootcamps are designed for start-up’s and corporate training programs.  Start-ups engaged in the program provide equity to Startupbootcamp but they are also provided a stipend for living expenses for the three month program to ensure they can focus on completion.  Survival rates are ~80% for the start-ups who have completed the program.  Regardless of the attendee origin, Startupbootcamp strives to push attendees for the “why” and to maintain a customer centric view at all times.  For the corporate program they include a mandatory 1 day session for C level executives to ensure greater success when employees finish the program and are integrated back into corporate.

Philips hosted Crowd Companies members for the full day of interactive sessions.  The sessions included two thought leaders, Rik Vera, CEO of Nexxworks and Patrick van der Pijl, CEO Business Models Inc.  We also had deep dive presentations from fellow members at Philips, Achmea, Swisscom, and Leroy Merlin which showcased their Innovation efforts, and allowed discussions for best practice.  

Through the day common elements or trends emerged from the leaders across all presentations/discussions including: Customer Centricity, Data, Strategy & Communication and Culture.

Customer Centricity
This may seem obvious but know who the actual customer is and the “why”.  Get outside and observe, ask and learn – it’s really fun too!  Ensure the product, innovation or corporate strategy aligns to the end customer.   Gain insights by connecting the dots of your internal and external parties, possibly creating something new.  One example of really knowing the end customer provided a potential 60M in savings.  We also discussed the customer voice/actions being one of the best sales tools.

Data
Data and management continues to be a significant trend.  For monitoring, the right or agreed metrics being the critical component.  One member shared their digital footprint for social monitoring  and how they could communicate information back to product owners in near real time.  Autonomous, Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots and other technologies will only increase data to be reviewed – choose metrics wisely and be sure agreement exists on measurements.

Strategy & Communication
Nimble strategy cannot be overlooked.  Innovation leaders discussed how some are gaining traction within the board level to increase awareness and improve communication.  Some have annual meetings to revive mission and vision to see where they are .  With customer and technology advancements strategy has to be fluid and changing – one presenter shared time spent may be 70% today, 20% tomorrow and 10% longer term.  Metrics also need to be highly communicated and agreed in advance so that Innovation is not bound to KPI’s meant for traditional business functions.  Failure should also be open and okay to learn fast, adapt and change – doing something and learning is better than nothing.  

Culture

We all know the important role culture plays within any organization.  We have observed in our research the frozen middle layer and executive acceptance of Innovation.  Members at this meeting shared insights to how they are dealing with change – forcing C level participation at bootcamps, open communication on metrics, involving HR through all levels of the organization to require change and unlearn old methods, pushing back on ROI or unknown goals during initiatives.  Open the doors to outside your industry (Value of the Council).  Trust  – in the team innovating to do the right thing.  One member shared 8B in new revenue was from products not in the market 8 yrs ago. Visual representation was also discussed as a tool to assist with a new project or initiative and gather support.

It’s great to see and hear the member challenges and opportunities.  To me, it’s especially gratifying when I hear afterwards how members return to their organizations with concrete steps to improving innovation learned from our meetings.  Such a fantastic group!

How Advanced Corporations Innovate: Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS

In our research on corporate innovation, we found the most advanced companies allow competitors to innovate in their own buildings.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS enables outside innovation inside the company. As a result, they’re improving the entire industry, including efforts of competitors, in order to positively impact society as a whole.


Above: Crowd Companies’ Carl Bohlin addresses the council on our tour to JLABs in SF.

At its nine sites within North America, JLABS gives startups the tools they need to level the playing field against large, corporate R&D teams. Half of each JLABS space is a common area with state-of-the-art equipment for use, while the other half is comprised of individual labs that help companies get started. JLABS is all new space, not old storage or “leftover” labs, and the facilities are separate and distinct from Johnson & Johnson corporate with no Janssen scientists working there.

 

The Crowd Companies team was privileged to tour one of the JLABS sites earlier this year, bearing witness to how Johnson & Johnson Innovation is breaking the mold in a big way. During our tour, dinner, and discussion at JLABS in South San Francisco , we found that the culture as a whole is diametrically opposite normal business behavior by inviting anyone into their space in order to innovate and advance specific medicines, medical devices and consumer & digital health solutions.

The concept of JLABS sprouted from a need when JLABS leader Melinda Richter suffered a near fatal medical emergency while traveling internationally, see her TED talk. She made a promise that, if she survived, she would do something to enhance medical efficiency and bring solutions to patients faster and better. From there, JLABS was born and sold to executives. It is now thriving under Richter’s leadership.

JLABS provides their space and tools onsite with no vested interest. Startups and innovators onsite have complete privacy to work without any sharing of IP. Security cameras are not even allowed to be directed where work is being conducted, and participants are encouraged to clean whiteboards after using. If it is presented with an idea of potential, Johnson & Johnson Innovation often pursues deeper partnerships that allow it to shape the ultimate innovation or product at a later date.

JLABS measures its success based on internal financial metrics, quality of innovators coming in, quality of science and technology being developed, development milestones reached, the number of people using its space, and education programs run.

Crowd Companies identifies the JLABS approach to innovation as an advanced program, as it not only benefits the company but also the entire industry. “Common tides raise all boats” in innovation, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation understands that their scientists will only be pushed further toward greatness if up against the best minds, with adequate resources, in the industry.

Corporate Innovation Programs Come in Ten Flavors

Our recent research on Corporate Innovation Programs (download the high level version) found that companies are attempting to act more nimble and agile by deploying a combination of these innovation programs. Frequency varies, and budgets are skewed around Startup Acquisition, being the bulk of the investment. Corporations are taking pages from startups, to emulate the culture of a fast-moving smaller company.

This list is structured in a logical way: The items listed on the top are happening inside of the company, while the items towards the bottom happen outside of the company. This is not a list that you should automatically approach as a checklist as the order of deployment will vary. For example, some companies have corporate development teams only, that solely exist to acquire startups –rarely to derive innovation from internal teams.

  1. Dedicated Innovation Team
    Corporations often start by staffing an innovation team within the company, which is comprised
    of both full- and part-time employees dedicated to developing strategy, managing, and activating innovation programs. These leaders are experts at internal communications and are proven change agents. Centralized teams deploy on behalf of the business units, and often act as a governing body when deployed on a global/cross-functional scale to manage multiple innovation team strategies.
  2. Innovation Center of Excellence
    Innovation Centers of Excellence (CoE) enable innovation across multiple departments within the
    company, and members serving on the CoE are also responsible for senior leadership within various corporate groups. Common departments included in the CoE are marketing/digital, PR, legal, HR, IT, and product. The goal of the CoE is to standardize and scale innovation across the company, providing guidance to efforts that do not yet have dedicated teams or leadership.
  3. Intrapreneur Program
    Rather than rely solely on external programs, internal employees — dubbed “intrapreneurs” — are
    given a platform and resources to innovate. These programs invest in employees’ ideas and passions to unlock everything from customer experience improvements to product enhancements and full-blown internal startups that are then launched from within the company.
  4. Open Innovation (Hackathon or Internal Incubator)
    Hosted inside a corporate office, large corporations invite startups to embed at their physical locations
    and “incubate” them with funding, corporate support, and other perks. This can also take the form of overnight hackathons, demo days, and online open-innovation programs/contests that request — and often reward — ideas from the crowd.
  5. Innovation Excursions
    Frequently, inspiration comes from outside, not within. Corporate leaders tour innovative
    organizations, companies, and regions (in Silicon Valley and other relevant tech hubs) to discover trends in various industries, learn from speakers, meet partners, and be inspired as they immerse themselves in innovation culture.
  6. Innovation Outpost
    An innovation outpost is a dedicated physical office, in Silicon Valley or wherever innovation
    happens in a corporation’s key market(s), staffed with professionals whose job is to sense current trends and disruptive technologies, connect with local startups, and integrate programs back into corporate headquarters. Some innovation outposts are host to partners, events, and startups, thereby overlapping into internal accelerator territory. An innovation outpost is typically managed by employees, unlike an external accelerator, which is run by a third party.
  7. Technology Education / University Partnership
    Through an educational partnership, corporations can tap into new university graduates, early-stage
    projects and companies, and the network of an established educational institution. In addition to traditional universities, there are new private versions opening up that are dedicated solely to technology training, like Galvanize and General Assembly.
  8. Accelerator Partnership
    Corporations partner with third-party accelerators to provide sponsorship and/or funding in
    exchange for relationships with startups and integration opportunities. Corporate innovation professionals often embed themselves in accelerator offices, fostering relationships with local startups. These external accelerators are run entirely by vendors (investors, advisors, etc.), unlike innovation outposts, which are managed by employees.
  9. Startup Investment
    Corporations place bets among the startup ecosystem, with both small investments for early-stage
    startups and larger amounts of corporate funding that yield market data, create opportunities for follow-on investments, and block competitors. Intel Capital is a recognized leader in corporate investing, raising $1.28 billion in funds and making 1,094 investments in 769 tech companies to date.
  10. Startup Acquisition
    Rather than build innovation from the inside, corporations acquire successful startups and integrate. While expensive, the startup is often already successful, and the acquisition can help the startup
    scale further. According to recent studies cited by Global Corporate Venturing, only 5% of corporate venture capital (CVC)-financed startups are acquired by the backing parent corporations.3 A new study from MassChallenge also reveals that 23% of corporations see working with startups as “mission critical,” and 67% say they want to work with earlier-stage startups.

Which program is best for every company? We didn’t find a silver bullet for all, as it varies on the innovation goals and culture. For example, some cultures are open to employee feedback, and thus an intranpreneurship program makes more sense. However, in some cases, working with outside companies is easiest, so partnering through accelerators or investing in startups is more sensible. Want to know more? Download the  report.

Corporate Innovation Programs Focus on Teams and Empowering Internal Innovation

Though there are many ways to approach innovation, the majority of companies focus on building innovation teams or “Innovation centers of excellence,” as well as fostering internal education, before moving toward external deployments.

In Crowd Companies’ recent report, The Corporate Innovation Imperative (download here), we identify 10 types of innovation programs corporations pursue when looking to evolve their business models, customer experiences, operations, or products and services. More on the 10 programs can be found here. We discovered that corporations often excel in one program initially, then add programs to their innovation portfolio as they mature and are able to justify related expenditures.

And, where do they begin? With their own teams. Through our survey, we found that dedicated innovation teams (79%), innovation “centers of excellence” (61%), and technology education / university partnerships (54%) are the most commonly deployed corporate innovation programs (see figure below). This shows that companies are first focusing internally on building the right teams, getting governance and processes in place, and educating current and new employees on emerging technologies before spending time and resources on rolling out external programs or investing in the startup scene.

Frequency of Corporate Innovation Programs

One way corporations are focusing on building strong teams is by involving cross-departmental constituents in their efforts. This smooths the path to internal acceptance and adoption as advocates are in every corner of the organization.

Much of the success of innovation teams depends on internal alignment among tangential departments, like legal and marketing, to move from ideation through implementation. Verizon recommends bringing new ideas and developments to lawyers early, who can help obtain and protect intellectual property rights in a fast-changing global legal landscape. Innovation teams should also have their own marketing and PR resources, as Mastercard Labs does, to socialize ideas internally and externally, when appropriate, pick up sponsorship, build momentum, and identify pilot customers. Mastercard Labs also produces its own 60-second “pitch” videos for each idea that makes it to prototype, as an easy way to promote viral sharing within the company.

How is your company approaching corporate innovation? Are you looking to build teams and foster education before looking outward to bolster innovation?

Johnson & Johnson Opening The Doors To Innovation – Walking the Walk

by Carl Bohlin, Member Success Manager

Quite often we hear of organizations looking to improve the industry in which they compete, or to benefit society, through innovation – a common buzzword at times.  In actuality what we have found is that innovation can mean real change which is unrealistic to the existing culture due to quarterly earnings or the board seeking immediate or foreseeable returns.  Further innovation leaders are also challenged with ROI for potentially disrupting the business (revenue) as it exists today.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation Labs (JLABS) is breaking the mold in a big way. Last month, we were lucky enough to have our Crowd Company Innovation leaders hosted for a tour, dinner and discussion at JLABS.  What we found in the lab, and J&J as a whole, is a culture that is diametrically opposite normal business behavior, and benefiting as a result.  How so?  Invite anyone (possibly future competitors) into a J&J space and provide start-ups full access to advanced medical devices & tools, peers, workspace and structure to advance specific medicines.  More importantly J&J is providing these tools with no vested interest.  

How can this be?  J&J doesn’t just have a mission statement, they live and breathe through their Credo which I encourage everyone to read.  The Credo starts with responsibility to medical professionals, patients, families and communities.  The final paragraph mentions stockholders and how they will benefit when all items described are handled properly.  

JLABS – like any innovation – was created through a need. Melinda Richter suffered a near fatal medical emergency while traveling internationally.  She made a promise that if she survived she would do something to enhance medical efficiency and bring solutions to patients faster and better than ever before.  The JLABS concept was created and sold to executives.  JLABS not only thrives but is part of the discussion of every company meeting.

JLABS provides

  • Start-ups access to working & lab space.  New space that is designed to foster innovation, not old storage or leftover.  The JLABS facility is separate and distinct with no J&J scientists working there.
  • The most up to date technology and tools provided by partners.  Tools J&J scientists may not have access to, and are often asking for.
  • Complete privacy to work without any sharing of IP.  Security cameras are not even allowed to be directed where work is being conducted and participants are encouraged to clean whiteboards after using
  • J&J assistance with advice from funding, legal, production and more

In return, J&J has built lasting relationships and a fulfillment of the credo they live by. There are no strings attached for the researchers and the solutions they create.  The end result could be partnerships, possible acquisition, private product launches, series funding or at the very least betterment of society and/or the people J&J serves.  Living up to the credo!

Are you ready to open doors and assist disruption of your industry?  

 

Your Guide to Innovation and Design Methods

By Jeremiah Owyang, with co-contributor Ryan Brinks

Corporations are approaching innovation processes and methods in different manners. Here’s a sample of common methods that we’ve commonly heard in our interviews from our recent report on the Corporate Innovation Imperative (download). Feel free to leave comments below with a design process or method that you feel if valuable, and explain why.

In summary, here’s the most commonly discussed and adopted versions, both in a high-level table below, then summaries below with a diagram

 

Name: Founded: Type: Best for: Differentiator:
Waterfall 1956 by Herbert D. Benington Linear Well-Defined projects Teams work independently on each stage
Lean Startup 2008 by Eric Ries Circular Unproven Markets Low investment to test the market
Design Thinking 1969 by Herbert Simon Circular Creative, unconventional solutions Forces exploration of ideas beyond the familiar
Agile 2001 by the writers of the Agile Manifesto Circular Volatile projects Can quickly and easily adapt to project changes
Design Sprints 2010 by Jake Knapp Conceptual Problem-solving Produces a tested prototype in just one week
Rapid Prototyping 1981 by Hideo Kodama Back-and-forth Manufactured products Direct digital-design-to-prototype approach

 


Waterfall

 

 

 

    

Known for a traditional method, it’s best suited to products for which the customer’s needs and expectations are well defined, the waterfall design methodology flows sequentially through six stages of development, completing one milestone before reaching the next. Waterfall design begins by understanding the context surrounding the problem to be solved and forming boundaries within which the solution must exist. Next comes the theoretical design of the product itself, followed by prototyping and testing. The fifth stage is packaging and delivery, and the final consideration is ongoing maintenance and customer service. “Even though there are newer and sexier development processes available, most projects are still probably using some version of this approach to deliver their projects,” TechRepublic stated.

Example: Acme project leaders sit down to interview a corporate client and agree on requirements for the project. They then instruct the design team to produce plans, which are prototyped and tested. From there, designs are tweaked, the prototype refined, and more testing conducted until the product is launched. Post-deployment, customer service keeps tabs on issues and ongoing maintenance.


 

Lean Startup

Rather than presume to know what customers need and want, the lean startup design methodology helps innovators focus on a disciplined management process that transforms an idea into a product by circling around and around three core principles: build, measure, and learn. This process begins by solving the problem with a basic, unrefined minimum viable product (MVP). The development team can then test the MVP internally and externally with a focused group of target customers. The feedback and learning then feed back into a new round of refinements, tests, and feedback. Soon the product is spiraling along an ever-rising and broadening helix that exposes it to better technology and more customers. “By the time that product is ready to be distributed widely, it will already have established customers,” TheLeanStartup.com states. “It will have solved real problems and offer detailed specifications for what needs to be built.”

Example: As soon as a product idea is formulated, Acme’s build team puts together a rough working MVP and passes it along for testing and exposure to a focus group of customers. Based on tests and feedback about the potential for the MVP, the build team reworks or refines the MVP and presents it for another round of testing and customer feedback. Eventually, early versions of the product gain momentum with beta testers, and their feedback defines the direction of future enhancements.


 

Design Thinking

 

The design thinking methodology encourages exploration of unconventional solutions by forcing innovators to go beyond their instincts and experience. Design thinking starts with the challenge of defining not just any problem but the right problem, and that requires developers to leave the comfort of stereotypes and theories to confront the realities of their customers’ situations and habits. It also involves intense questioning of every perspective. To then solve the right problem, a diverse team must be disciplined enough to push past the solutions that come easily and propose many other, often more creative, possibilities. From there, the team experiments freely with the most promising ideas until a winner emerges that can ultimately be prototyped and tested. “Design thinking,” according to Fast Company, “describes a repeatable process employing unique and creative techniques which yield guaranteed results — usually results that exceed initial expectations. Extraordinary results that leapfrog the expected.”


 

Agile

 

 

Though more ambiguous than other methodologies, Agile represents any methodology that’s focused on creating products in a way that quickly adapts to ever-changing needs, demands, ideas, and technologies. At the core of Agile is a set of four guiding values and 12 principles. Being Agile means prioritizing individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. This is typically accomplished by breaking projects into small pieces and conducting short-term iterations that move products along one goal at a time. Between iterations, teams have the opportunity to act on feedback, re-prioritize goals, etc.


 

Sprints

 

 

Design sprints are five-day shortcuts to solving big problems or tapping new markets through high-level idea prototyping. Developed by the minds behind Google Ventures, “the sprint gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions before making any expensive commitments.” Google Ventures outlines the design sprint process by day: “On Monday, you’ll map out the problem and pick an important place to focus. On Tuesday, you’ll sketch competing solutions on paper. On Wednesday, you’ll make difficult decisions and turn your ideas into a testable hypothesis. On Thursday, you’ll hammer out a high-fidelity prototype. And on Friday, you’ll test it with real live humans.”


 

Rapid Prototyping

 

With the rise of 3D printing has come the emergence of rapid prototyping, which transforms digital CAD designs directly into functional prototypes or concept models. The rapid prototyping process accelerates testing, cuts out wasted time and resources, and leads to earlier detection of important product flaws or issues. It can also allow for wider experimentation of different manufacturing materials, including photopolymers, thermoplastics, metals and composites. Rapid prototyping can even engineer the tooling or molds needed for large-scale production.


Summary: Choose a Design Method that suits your Need.
What’s most interesting is that very advanced companies like WL Gore train and educate all their employees on a common innovation framework (in this case, Lean Startup method) and encourage all teams to approach, measure, and even report up on this method. I personally care less about which method you choose, as long as it’s the right one for the business and encourages a culture of innovation beyond just pockets of labs. Lastly, we found that many agencies, consulting firms and innovation boutique companies have their own permutations of the following methods, which they rebrand and package up for their clients. Here’s a sample of a few processes that we’ve observed, feel free to leave a comment with additional versions, below.

Photo credit: pexels

The Inside Scoop on Leading in Innovation

Welcome, this industry newsletter shares key market changes, in a twice-monthly publication, curated by Jeremiah Owyang, Founder of Crowd Companies™, you can subscribe to the email newsletter on the footer of the homepage.

The Secrets to Defending Against Disruption
What is it about established businesses that fosters continuous innovation and helps them defend against the constant barrage of technological disruption? That’s what Crowd Companies Founder Jeremiah Owyang investigated, and what he found to be the biggest obstacles to innovation, the best ways to restructure for innovation, and the key metrics with which to measure success are all laid out in his newest report, “The Corporate Innovation Imperative: How Large Corporations Avoid Disruption by Strengthening Their Ecosystem.” Read more in the FIR Podcast Network interview here.

Adobe Redesigns Creativity for the Cloud
From revolutionary font technology to visionary photo software, innovative document formats and much more, Adobe has redesigned the future of creativity and productivity over the decades. And fresh off its “tech-industry-first” software-as-a-service innovations, the multinational firm that Fast Company ranked No. 35 among the World’s Most Innovative Companies this year is aiming to further redesign cloud-based intelligence with new innovations in AI and virtual reality. Read more about Adobe’s Fast Company accolade here.

Drones Are Taking Over the Tech Conversation
The technological development of drones is taking off even as rules and regulations scramble to catch up, and regardless of what shape and size they come in, these drones are headed straight for the retail and logistics industry. When drones show up at your door with food, gadgets, or goods, they’ll change the face of delivery forever. Check out Crowd Companies’ compilation of 10 delivery drones and bots currently leading the way toward the Autonomous World of the future. It’s on the Crowd Companies blog here.


We want to hear from you! What are the market impacts of this week’s news stories? Email Crowd Companies™ Founder Jeremiah Owyang directly to share your thoughts.


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