As with many buzzwords, the term “corporate innovation” can get thrown around so broadly that it starts losing its meaning. So, let’s break it down: Oxford Dictionary defines innovation as the process by which something is renewed and brought up to date by applying new processes, introducing new techniques or establishing successful ideas to create new value. This suggests that when it comes to adding “new value” to corporations, innovation can serve as a power tool to effectively respond to a fast-changing market.
In the digitalization age, data shows that the rate at which these shifts happen has accelerated to the point that since the early 2000s, 52% of Fortune 500 multinationals have ceased to exist due to market changes. Moreover, a recent survey conducted by McKinsey & Company found that 85% of executives believe that the COVID-19 fallout will have a lasting impact on their customers’ needs and therefore, their companies.
This means one thing: innovation is crucial for any business to survive and thrive. But how to get there? In recent years, many corporate leaders have turned to an “adapt fast, move quickly and efficiently” startup mindset to stay ahead of the game.
At parallel18, a program of the Puerto Rico, Science, Technology and Research Trust, I’ve seen this first hand. Through our corporate innovation initiative, P18Connect, we help startups grow on the island while promoting that Puerto Rico’s biggest industries become more competitive. There have been some trial and errors in the process, but these are the things that I believe work best:
1. Exposing top employees to an innovation mindset
Sometimes innovation comes from those who know the company best: its employees. However, support and compromise from top leaders are key. Having a structure to make it happen and giving employees the necessary tools is a must. For example, Verizon and Coca-Cola created their own innovation labs as spaces to jumpstart creativity within their companies.
That’s the purpose of our Corporate Innovation School. To offer a curriculum to help big companies spark innovation from within by preparing their employees with the tools to face and address their businesses’ present and future challenges with a startup mindset.
2. Forging strategic partnerships with smaller companies
Hiring smaller, but highly innovative companies, to take care of things like customer service automation or enhanced wellness programs means corporations can upscale their competitive advantage.
Most startups have plug and play solutions and experience dealing with corporate processes. To put it in perspective, at parallel18, we’ve created a Guide to Corporate-Startup Engagements that summarizes how these relationships work.
3. Giving back to the community
When a company uses its resources for the greater good, such as investing in local talent, they become catalysts of the future. By giving back to the community through entrepreneurial programs, companies are betting on a new generation of creators who will bring their innovation to their enterprises, rather than somewhere else. This also helps the company’s clients perceive the enterprise as forward thinking and purposeful, a characteristic that 63% of consumers look for when purchasing from a brand.