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Change Management

Corporate Innovation Q&A with Chris Becker

NetEffect CEO Chris Becker was recently featured in a roundtable discussion on Corporate Innovation hosted by Check out the full discussion here or read Chris’ responses below.

What is one example that comes to your mind when you are thinking of corporate innovation?

A great example of corporate innovation is Starbucks. They have combined their high-quality products and dedicated customer base and deployed a range of innovative digital tools to re-invent their coffee-buying experience. Not only can you pay with your mobile app which is connected to your credit card or PayPal account, but you can also place your order in advance and pick it up at any location – talk about a frictionless experience! Not only is Starbucks innovating in the coffee business, they have become one of the largest mobile payment providers as well.

Through the Starbucks Reward Program, they are collecting large amounts of exclusive customer data that assist them in trying to craft the perfect personalized experience. While other companies definitely use loyalty programs and various digital tools to understand and design a seamless customer experience, to me, Starbucks always seems to be one step ahead of the rest.

Why is corporate innovation getting more attention now than ever before?

With the rise of disruptive platforms like Airbnb, Amazon and Uber specializing in fast and simple customer experiences, CEOs everywhere are realizing they need to innovate in order to keep their businesses relevant in this rapidly changing digital world.

In the past decade, large companies have started to see small startups entering their industries and starting to have an impact. With daily business conversations centering around ‘digital, cloud, mobile, social, big data’, CEOs and business leaders are under increasing pressure to understand and assess the risks and opportunities. Many CEOs have jumped on the innovation bandwagon, as they no longer have an option not to. Corporate innovation is and must continue to be a major topic of conversation.

How are large corporations working with entrepreneurs and startups to improve their business?

Entrepreneurs and startups can hold the key to innovation that corporations often lack. They can breathe life into them with fresh eyes, unique problem-solving skills, critical innovations and the potential to tap into new and expanded markets.

Corporations are not startups and really shouldn’t strive to be. Rather, as discussed by Tendayi Viki, established companies need to create innovation ecosystems, recognizing different areas of the business as distinct business entities, each at a different level of maturity. Some corporations are starting to take this ecosystem approach, which helps them work with entrepreneurs and startups to gain a unique solution to a specific problem.

How can corporations break out of the classic rigidness associated with large rigid organizations and become more flexible?

A common trap for killing innovation is to follow a traditional approach that comes with rigid corporate business models: striking up a project team, creating a committee or having ‘regular meetings’. Forget it. If these activities haven’t worked in the past, even for more standard efforts, why would they work for your most challenging and disruptive priorities?

While there’s no one recipe for success and every business situation is different, learning how to adapt your mindset and organizational culture to digital innovation and transformation only increase your likelihood of success.

Creating disruption from within is about more than launching a new initiative with a catchy name or creating an investment fund. It can’t happen without teaching your people how to think and behave more like entrepreneurs, risk takers, and innovators. You need to make people in all parts of your organization accountable for voicing new ideas, taking chances, challenging norms (and senior management), and moving things forward in a sometimes ambiguous environment.

Without vocal, repeated and demonstrable support for these behaviors, sustained innovation will not happen.

An organization’s people are the drivers of innovation and disruption. Corporate executives need to nurture this environment, not try to control and direct. The ideas that will drive the long-term success of a company do not come from steering committees. People that live and breathe the business, serve customers day in and day out, know the intricacies of the products and services, and understand the good, the bad and the ugly of your company – they are the ones who will lead the way.