4 Ways to Overcome Enterprise Innovation Challenges

Written by

Davin Wilfrid

Published on

December 10, 2019

Enterprise innovation challenges are deeply embedded and difficult to overcome. However, smart organizations have discovered several best practices for improving their ability to be more innovative despite the hurdles they face.

1. They Tie Innovation to Corporate Strategy


The most innovative organizations don’t simply fund big innovation teams or labs; they make it their
business to be more innovative. This starts at the corporate strategy level, where senior leaders and their boards must make a declaration that innovation is an important element of the organization’s strategy. 

Not only does this ensure the commitment of funds and resources, it also ensures that P&L owners at every business unit, division, and geography commit to supporting the mission. Of course, the organization must also define the desired business outcomes of innovation  (declaring “We want to be an innovative company” is not enough). 

If done correctly, this practice also properly incentivizes innovation, reducing or eliminating fear from risk-averse P&L owners. If the goal is driven by innovation, complacency becomes the risk.

Innovation at Anheuser-Busch InBev

The most innovative organizations don’t simply fund big innovation teams or labs; they make it their business to be more innovative. This starts at the corporate strategy level, where senior leaders and their boards must make a declaration that innovation is an important element of the organization’s strategy. 

Not only does this ensure the commitment of funds and resources, it also ensures that P&L owners at every business unit, division, and geography commit to supporting the mission. Of course, the organization must also define the desired business outcomes of innovation  (declaring “We want to be an innovative company” is not enough). 

If done correctly, this practice also properly incentivizes innovation, reducing or eliminating fear from risk-averse P&L owners. If the goal is driven by innovation, complacency becomes the risk.

2. They Balance (and Rebalance) Their Innovation Portfolio

Innovation is messy, and most new products will fail. These statements will never be untrue, and yet the most innovative companies find a way to reduce both clutter and failure. 

It all starts with a centralized view of all innovation initiatives. Company leaders — not just “innovation” leaders but all of those with the responsibility to deliver on corporate strategy — should be able to view the progress and status of all projects within an innovation portfolio. 

More importantly, leaders should be able to make decisions on which innovation investments to continue funding and which to stop. They should be able to quickly redeploy talent and resources to other projects, and to measure the effectiveness of each initiative in terms the organization has already defined.

How Corteva Agriscience Manages Innovation

As one of three new businesses that arose from the merger of Dow and DuPont, Corteva Agriscience is focused on growth through innovation. The company partners scientists with business partners to collaborate on innovations that are managed like startups in a portfolio. 

Rather than focusing solely on developing or enhancing products within its core markets, Corteva is focused on tackling adjacent and new markets — distributing its investments in projects according to risk/reward calculations.

Investments in new and adjacent product ideas must meet a minimum threshold in volume before they can yield results — one company executive likened it to “pearl farming” — and unsuccessful innovations are discarded quickly. Corteva and other smart companies are adopting new ways of working to be faster, more adaptable, and more successful.

3. They Accelerate Innovation Delivery

According to research done by BCG, the #1 barrier to innovation at large organizations is long development times. Innovative organizations find ways to deliver new products faster. 

There are a few ways to accelerate innovation delivery. Companies can partner with startups, like Unilever did when it co-developed a new ice cream delivery service in Pakistan (with a 10 minutes-or-less guarantee!). They can use frameworks like McKinsey’s 3 Horizons Model to prioritize and organize initiatives. 

Most innovative companies also rethink the way they staff and resource innovation initiatives. Rather than hiring FTEs for each initiative, they leverage a combination of in-house talent, external talent or contractors, and consulting firms. This agile combination allows organizations to get the right people on the right work more quickly, significantly reducing time-to-delivery.

Top 5 Barriers to Seeing Return on Innovation

Development times too long
42%
Selecting the right ideas to commercialize
32%
Risk-averse culture
31%
Lack of coordination
25%
Not enough great ideas
25%

4. They Enable Innovation at Scale

The first three practices are to ensure organizational alignment, operational effectiveness, and speed to value. The fourth is where it all comes together to scale. 

Innovation at scale is about the continuous process of feedback, insights, and deployment into the organization. As your innovation portfolio grows, this practice grows in importance. 

Of course it’s much easier said than done. You’ll need two things:

  • Standard success metrics
    Some organizations use Net Present Value, while others use internally-developed KPIs. Regardless, when it comes to understanding the real value of innovation initiatives, a common language is imperative.
  • An ecosystem of technology and processes
    Deploying innovation into an organization is like souping up a car engine — you’ll need the right tools and access to complete the work. For most organizations, the most challenging part is a unified system of record.
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60% of executives say their organizations struggle to learn from past mistakes

Source: Accenture 2015 US Innovation Survey

Learn More

Want to help your organization become an innovation machine? Download our new eBook 4 Behaviors of the Most Innovative Companies.  

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Written by

Davin Wilfrid

Published on

December 10, 2019

Davin is the Director of Content Marketing for Catalant. In his spare time, he builds terrible-sounding instruments.