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Become who you are. Make what only you can make.Friedrich Nietzsche

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Foster radical innovation

Foster radical innovation

Innovation is at the heart of company priorities. Yet, large organizations mostly limit themselves to marginal innovations while leaving start-ups the prerogative for disruptive innovations. How can you set up an environment that is propitious to radical innovation?


According to a McKinsey survey, 84% of business executives place innovation among their priorities, but only 6% declare they are satisfied with the innovation capacities of their company. Yet, large companies dedicate considerable means to innovation—782 billion dollars globally in 2018, according to PwC. Most often however, they only achieve disappointing results. For the most part, they succeed in improving existing solutions, but without fundamentally transforming them: this is called “incremental innovation”. On the contrary, disruptive innovations, those that make a real change in the market, seem to be the prerogative of start-ups: Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, etc. How come these organizations, originally small structures, manage to innovate in a radical manner while organizations with much greater resources struggle to do it?

It is mostly a cultural issue. While newcomers have little to lose and everything to prove, historical leaders suffer from their aversion to risk. Furthermore, far from being assets, their structure and their processes hamper them in the race for innovation, which conversely requires thinking “out of the box”.

Yet, these constraints are in no way insurmountable. Some large companies manage to reconcile formal organization with freedom of initiative, coherence with confrontation of ideas, rigor with risk taking. While they are making profits from their current offering, they actively work at the next generation. Whether at Lego, Carlsberg or British Airways, innovation is less publicized than among the Californian or Chinese “unicorns”—but is nonetheless neither less radical nor less effective.

These companies’ practices are precious sources of inspiration, in a situation where technological, economic and societal mutations are speeding up. They provide serious help to anticipate the turn towards the inevitable transformations to come: artificial intelligence, robotization, circular economy, etc. Their example pleads for “liberated” innovation, which leaves greater autonomy to staff members to generate ideas and experiment with them.

In this synopsis:
Innovate like a start-up
– Set up an environment propitious to radical innovation
Transcend the notion of market to speed up innovation: the Amazon case

Synopsis n.290b