Why ‘corporate innovation’ is BS

- December 2, 2019 2 MIN READ

“We are leading the way in corporate innovation” is often a phrase trumpeted by large corporations, put forward with the aim of portraying themselves as forward-thinking, original or cutting-edge.

But its overuse and broad application has meant that the phrase has lost its true meaning.

In the rush to claim innovation, corporations have repurposed the phrase for themselves – it’s become part of a branding and marketing exercise that dresses good management up as innovative behaviour. A simplified buzzword, corporate innovation no longer stands for what it truly is; a transformative process.

What is innovation, actually?

In the same way that water is transformed into ice, innovation in the corporate space is about taking original elements and creating something new. It translates an idea into a service or product and is essential for the success and growth of a business.

The issue, however, is that true innovation requires an element of risk to be undertaken and, as it stands, many corporates are simply too risk-averse to try something new. Instead of doing things differently and genuinely innovating, many corporates are dressing up the management of their current processes and products and selling it as innovation.

There’s a difference between innovating and managing

Fundamentally, if you’re not creating something new, be it a new product, service or business model – regardless of how well you are managing or executing a known process or product – you’re not innovating.

Examples of innovative businesses surround us constantly, quickly becoming ingrained in our everyday lives.  There are those that have transformed whole industries, creating new opportunities and categories of operation in doing so – companies like Netflix, which changed content production, Uber which transformed the transport industry and Spotify, which transformed the way people access and listen to music.

On the smaller end of the scale, there are technologies incorporated into everyday business, changing and simplifying the way we work; like that of Artificial Intelligence (AI), to chatbots, cloud storage and automated workflows.

Non-transformative corporations need not apply

‘Corporate innovation’ relies on behavioural change within the enterprise. From the adoption of technology that improves processes exponentially for the people using it, the incorporation of businesses that furthers opportunities for growth and expansion, or – in the case of Immediation – the adoption of a technology platform, combined with a service that improves access to judicial justice for clients and businesses.

When it comes down to it, corporate innovation is not a term that just anyone can claim. It loses its value when applied to day-to-day business growth and change, by enterprises looking to improve their self-image and outplay smaller, more competitive businesses.

Those that label themselves as ‘innovative’ without actually changing their behaviour need to be called out. It’s the companies and individuals driving transformative change who are wearing the real risk of innovation. They are chasing potential success, but in doing so are taking on board the risks of failure and, as such, are deserving of the actual title.

  • Nick Northcott is Executive Director, Commercial, of Immediation