A Guide To Corporate Innovation: 19 Strategies Not To Do

Given the importance of innovation to drive the longevity, growth, and competitiveness of large corporations, here are 19 strategies that are generally over-used and not helpful.

1. Do the Silicon Valley petting zoo thing – Go to the Valley and tell the troops about how you want to bring innovation from the outside in. Talk about how we must disrupt ourselves and share stories of meeting with hoodie-clad founders. Meet with the same VCs every other corporation is meeting with and talk about your amazing network and access.

2. Launch an old school accelerator – You know you’re going to be disrupted, so what says you’re taking this seriously? Paying a vendor to set up an accelerator for you and giving $50k to 10 early-stage startups that are pre-product and pre-traction. Nothing says you’re serious about protecting your multi-billion dollar revenue like dropping $500k on 10 startups that your corporation isn’t suited to work with.

3. Have a brainstorming meeting that uses lots of Post-It Notes – If you’re serious about identifying new ideas (#blueocean), you need to have a meeting that uses Post-It Notes. Lots of them.

Put them all over the room and have a great conversation full of ideas around disruption and new business models. And then don’t follow through. Just let all those ideas sit on those Post-It Notes. Pro-tip: Never use yellow Post-It notes ‘cuz those are not innovative at all.

4. Take someone who has plateaued in their career and give them “innovation” – Nothing shows your commitment to growth and innovation like taking someone the whole organization knows isn’t that great and putting them in charge of your very important innovation efforts.

5. Start a corporate VC – Focus your corporate venture fund on near-term needs and as a way to find M&A targets (“try before you buy”). Put really onerous terms on companies and invest in companies too early for your organization to actually do something with.

6. Talk about bringing learnings from the outside in – Whether via a VC or accelerator or a Silicon Valley office, talk about bringing learnings into the org but have no systematic way to do this. Send lots of decks and emails around and hope people read them. And in a couple of years, have no real trail or institutional knowledge you can go back to.

7. Don’t give metrics to innovation / growth-focused teams – If you give these teams concrete goals, they might hit them. If you keep the goals open-ended, you can fire them when the economy turns because they didn’t hit the goals that were never defined.

8. Have multiple groups with similar but different enough mandates – Have a venture, M&A, partnership, digital transformation, and innovation team that are all sort of doing the same thing, but to maximize confusion, have them reporting into different folks. Don’t have any sort of technology-driven system that keeps them all on the same page. This way, multiple groups can reach out to the same startup to create that impression of maximum confusion and to ensure that there is little to no knowledge-sharing within the organization.

9. Invest in VCs as an LP to “access innovation” – Instead of just calling the VC up and asking the firm if it has a company in its portfolio that might help with a business need, invest in the VC to get mediocre returns and also get no real preferential access. Win-win.

10. Expect returns within 12 months – Talk non-stop about the long-term but measure every forward-looking, somewhat risky partnership, investment, or acquisition with as short of a time frame as possible.

11. Invent new senior titles – Hire a digital innovation sherpa or chief intrapreneur or head of ecosystem and give them no resources or budget. Ensure these folks have cool hair.

12. Move to an open floor plan – You’re all about free idea flows, right? Cubicles are for those stuffy f’n suits. Add in a barista for extra credit. Fruit-infused water for serious innovation cred.

13. Start talking like how you think startups talk – Talk about failing fast, design thinking, and how you’ve adopted a lean startup mindset. Then have your legal team send a startup a 135-page confidentiality agreement ‘cuz that screams lean.

14. Hire a huge management consulting firm – To build an innovative culture, hire organizations with a business model that hasn’t changed in one hundred years. Yup — they’ve studied innovation and have lots of frameworks. They’ve just never done it.

15. Hire some Xooglers – You need great talent, and hiring some people from Google or Amazon is the surest way to show the org you are serious. Sure, these folks might have petered out at Google, but that’s fine. They will bring some of that Google magic to your organization. Of course, they won’t have a budget or an organization. Instruct them to say “At Google, we…” to kick off every meeting.

16. Have rooms that are painted with whiteboard paint – Great ideas are sometimes lost in the time it takes someone to walk up to a whiteboard. So get rid of that walk. Make the whole freakin’ room a whiteboard. Watch the ideas flow. If you have budget, make the conference rooms glass and have people write on the glass and windows for that whole Beautiful Mind vibe.

17. Hire a chef and offer free meals – Free food is what made Google a huge company, right? Get a chef and don’t worry about your business model. All will be fed. All will be fine.

18. Spend lots of time defining your stage-gate process – Set up a committee that will define a robust process that any executive can ultimately override if they so choose. Bonus points for a scoring methodology that is entirely subjective.

19. Adopt a casual dress code – Along with your open floor plan, go all in and allow people to dress casually. Everyone knows the best ideas come to people when they are in flip flops.