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Everybody cares about solving problems, but Nobody cares about innovation

The amalgamation of our DNA, resources and momentum we’ve created at XNode has had led us onto the path of "Corporate Innovation"; practicing lean innovation methodology and open innovation among others.

We have definitely overused the word “Innovation” with three simple reasons for that: the market/customers wanted to hear it (we also have a strong startup DNA – allowing us to know the 2 sides of the coin of innovation), it was aligned with large corporates’ top priorities, and all CEOs and executive boards had this one obsession; how to innovate in a constant changing (VUCA) world made of uncertainty?

But let’s be honest.

With what we've seen so far in the corporate world, no one really care about innovation. Mostly, everybody only cares about their problems and how to solve them.

In this article below let us look at the four main problems we’ve observed that our corporates friends are struggling with regards to innovation.

The “Innovation Definition” Problem

The reality when dealing with innovation is that everyone has their own understanding of the word “innovation”. Ask any audience of, say 20 people of their definition of innovation and you will get 20 different answers. Technological innovation, product innovation, business model innovation, marketing innovation, channel innovation, process innovation, disruptive innovation, HR innovation and so on…

Let’s not argue much here about the definition of innovation that in itself needs a specific article.

Everyone sees innovation through the lenses of problems they have, and the potential solution innovation can provide, facilitate or enable.

The Speed Problem

The major problem all corporates are facing is inertia; the most critical “law of physics” in the corporate world. Lack of speed is hurting corporates and their stakeholders at every level of the organization; Speed of understanding a problem, getting an approval, building a solution, procurement process and even payment.

Einstein's theory of relativity fully realizes itself when comparing both the startup and the corporate perception of “Time”. One Startup day is three Corporate months. This is a major pain point for our startup friends when dealing with the big guys. As a company that operates as a startup, we also feel and share that pain.

Several reasons (we all already know; read more here) illustrate the why. Hierarchical structure, functions division, quarterly and yearly time frames, plans and stickiness to them, incentives schemes, the "shareholders interest first" disease, risk management, Culture and many more.

The Customer Centricity Problem

The corporate world was built in the last 30 to 40 years on everything other than “customer centricity”.

It was all about protecting competitive advantages, beating the competition, playing on and shaping legal frameworks, keeping prices high, paying attention to new entrants and substitution products, spending more time on the cow, the dog and the star (BCGs delicious but not any more useful framework).

It was also all about Michael Porters five forces; the strategy Bible. However, the God of Strategy ironically missed the most important force, the Customer. It was OK to muddle around like that before, but not anymore.

All the current extremely popular innovation frameworks from Design Thinking to Lean Startups are now putting the customer back at the center of the game. Customer perspectives and pain points are the new Holy Grails. Top dollars are paid to get these insights. User experience departments/functions are popping up all in the corporate world.

Corporates have now to learn something counter-intuitive, listening to and serving customer first, while not forgetting to do it in a fast manner. Because it is now an "Adapt fast or die" story, Nokia, Kodak and Toys’R’Us learned it the hard way.

The Collaboration Problem

The Collaboration problem refers to the collaboration (or lack of) between departments within the same organization (the silo disease), collaboration between players in the same industry as well as the collaboration between industries. Because of that “protection reflex” as we commonly refer to, protecting the competitive advantage, or shareholder value, corporates, in their nature do not openly share what they know. This lead to each corporate environment re-inventing its own wheel, in their very own R&D “bunker”, while in the world outside, everyone can collaborate and build on the value of others. Isn’t the latter the way "Innovation" should be after all?

Now it’s imperative for corporates to be in a collaboration mode because times have changed: they finally realized it is getting harder to hire all the smartest people of the world, and it certainly does not help to be disrupted by young startups and new technologies that are able to do much more with much less.

It is a real struggle.

For Every Problem, There is a Solution, Otherwise There is No Problem

Solving problems and getting real impact and results through innovation is not easy to achieve. You can be fast, customer centric, collaborative but still, you need to be patient. You never do innovation as a sprint.

Solving problems in an innovative way is a marathon, and it is so because it deals with corporate habits and cultures, which take time to shape and transform.

And that is a huge transformation (or maybe innovation?) problem for corporates.

By the XNode Team (Othmane Bennis)

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