New Year, New Focus on Corporate Innovation


Craig Haney has been leading the charge for corporate innovation in Canada for almost 10 years.

As we head into 2019, it’s a great opportunity to evaluate the past year (or more) and look to the new year with an eye to improvement, change, and focus.  With that, we’d like to introduce you to the concept of a Nimble Hippo.

The Nimble Hippo is a representation of what an agile, nimble, and innovative organization looks like. Nimble Hippos are big, they are smart, they are curious and they ask great questions. They partner where they can. And, finally, they are cool, they are the company that people want to work at, and work with. The most innovative companies in the world express these five traits across their organization and tend to be very successful because of them.

The Nimble Hippo will take you through the process of innovation in large organizations. He has talked about open innovation and how to engage with innovative ecosystems, with companies and people not like you.  Nimble Hippos understand that culture, people, and processes that support new ideas and technologies will ultimately determine the sustainability of innovative companies.

But there are many well-intentioned hippos that have yet to get to nimble. They implement policies and procedures that they believe will help their organization become nimble, but end up doing more harm than good.

Let’s look at the top five ways large organizations unintentionally create the opposite of what they are intending to create:

  1. Ask for lots of ideas from the employees, but do nothing with them.
  2. Jump on the ‘design thinking’ or ‘lean startup’ bandwagon, yet don’t change any of the structure or policies internally which enable them.
  3. Set unrealistic revenue targets for innovation teams.
  4. Give one executive the title of Chief Innovation Officer, but provide no support to deliver on the mandate of innovation.
  5. Talk about innovation and risk taking, but punish those employees who take risks and fail.

Innovation is a hot topic right now for most organizations. The reason is that large organizations which have typically been able to dictate the market trends are finding themselves behind and trying to play catch-up. Many executives will begin to implement ideas and small initiatives to spur innovation, but ultimately when the big changes are raised, the company isn’t ready for the required changes to create an innovative company. They want to talk about it, but aren’t willing to do the heavy lifting and install management that is required to deliver on it.

Companies that look at innovation tactics independent of business strategy is a trap that many organizations fall into. Thankfully there is a series of activities and changes that companies can make to help get them on the nice list. Over the next series of articles, we will address each of these 5 traps that companies can fall into, and provide clear and concise ways to either get out of the trap you’ve fallen into, or avoid them all together.

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