Corporate Innovation With Anthony Catt and Samuel Knight [Podcast]

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Welcome to episode #12 of the Fliplet podcast!

It’s a special episode this week as we were joined by not one, but TWO guests! Anthony Catt, Managing Director at Oxygen Startups and Samuel Knight, Co-founder at Pollen8, joined Ian for a fascinating episode on corporate innovation.

As usual, we’ve compiled the key talking points from the podcast, and you’ll find the links to the podcast above.

Who are Anthony Catt and Samuel Knight?

As we mentioned, Anthony is MD of Oxygen Startups, one of the UKs longest standing tech accelerators; that’s currently focused on working closely with corporate and public sector organizations to help them engage with startups through programs supporting startups and scaleups.

An MSc scholar in Entrepreneurship & International Business at Aston Business School, Anthony has a passion for education around critical and creative thinking to drive the way people do and think about business.

Samuel is CEO and co-founder of Pollen8, a company that helps large organizations build and manage their innovation ecosystem through structured internal accelerator programmes and an innovation portfolio management platform. Coming from a background in digital transformation in one of the big 4, Samuel is interested in how large organizations can nurture innovation from within.

What is corporate innovation?

As is always the case, it’s interesting to hear how individuals from different perspectives describe their understanding of matters in business.

Anthony recognizes corporate innovation as differentiating the way you work towards your goals and whatever it is your organization wants to achieve.

Samuel added that for him it’s about keeping up with change, creating new ventures and engaging with new markets.

Is corporate innovation working?

So, are the attempts to innovate at the corporate level working? Is innovation being taken seriously by the largest organizations?

Samuel highlighted some research suggests that 75% of the Fortune 500 by 2020 will be names of companies we don’t recognize. Further statistics would suggest that innovation isn’t necessarily leading to change.

91% of leaders know that strategic innovation is a priority, yet 75% of all corporate innovation programmes fail.

Why do so many corporate innovation schemes fail?

There were three key reasons highlighted by Samuel and Anthony that help explain why these corporate innovation programmes are failing:

  • Structure
  • Transparency
  • Culture

There is a resounding divide between the personal and professional worlds of many employees in the corporate world. Conversely, startups do not face that struggle, and innovation is, thus, easier.

How can corporate organizations engage in innovation?

Anthony outlines the change that many accelerators have undergone in recent years. The traditional model of simple investment programs (Accelerator 1.0) has evolved into a new breed includes the capacity for corporate driven programs to invest in startups, such as the Barclays Accelerator (Accelerator 2.0).

The future holds what both Anthony and Samuel call Accelerator 3.0, where rather than just investing, corporates firms have the opportunity to co-create with startups, and engage in an innovative ecosystem. With over 60 accelerator programs in London alone, there is room for startups to do more than just pitch to investors.

A shift in the way that we work

According to Samuel, the key to success for many corporate organizations is collaboration. How can they work with existing startups who are already using innovative technology to disrupt industries and enable rapid growth.

Millennials have shifted the way in which we work. The modern workplace can now be accessed from all over the world, and there is no requirement to:

a) work from an office, or
b) work for a large organization.

66% of millennials are planning on leaving large organizations within the next 2-3 years.

These firms must figure how they can still work with these individuals through means that suit both parties.

Creating transparency across large organizations

One of the roadblocks for large organizations is communication and transparency. How are employees meant to know when and if they should get involved in innovation?

One way is to let startups approach you with solutions to your problems. AXA Insurance outlined their key challenge areas where they wanted to innovate: connectivity between homes and retirement. They opened the door to innovation from startups to address both.

By placing an emphasis on experimentation, AXA, and other large organizations can communicate their policy throughout the organization to ensure that the best solutions are achieved.

What are the challenges of corporate innovation?

Failure is an important aspect of business in general. Learning to accept learning, even if it hasn’t worked.

Risk is always a concern of many large organizations and in order to reduce it innovation can often be stalled by pre-approval processes and structures. IT departments, for example, are often seen as blockers to innovation from outside parties as they are not using standard practices or technologies.

Samuel refers to collaboration with smaller competitors as “co-opertition” and sees it as something that organizations struggle to do, but really should be considering. Again, data security, procurement and new technology are all blockers to this innovation.

Prepare your corporate organization for innovation

Lastly, the ways in which organization can prepare for innovation are discussed. In summary, this can be done by:

  • starting small,
  • experimenting with processes and technology,
  • building a new culture around innovation
  • using leadership to drive corporate change

You can listen to the full podcast to find out more about corporate innovation. Plus, find out how Anthony and Samuel are working with organizations to change the ways in which large organizations collaborate with startups, and much more!

If you want to get in touch with Anthony you can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or contact him through the Oxygen Startups website.

You can reach Samuel on Twitter, LinkedIn, or through the Pollen8 website.