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Today’s companies are aware of the importance of promoting innovation to survive in an environment as competitive as the current one. In order to capture and develop new business ideas, it is increasingly common for companies to launch corporate innovation programs that make innovation a transversal challenge for the entire company, throughout all its areas of activity, departments, and even external collaborators.

On a semantic level, the proposal seems very attractive, with concepts like innovation labs, collaboration with startups… That said, in terms of content, how can we avoid all these efforts from drifting aimlessly, or becoming a ‘theater of innovation’? Also, how can we ensure they have a specific purpose and a real impact within an organization?

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This article by Scott Kirsner, published in the Harvard Business Review, draws a distinction between two different groups of companies: those where all these actions culminate in nothing, and those where these innovation activities translate into internal improvements, new products, services, or business models. 

What does a company have to be a role model in innovation?
How to keep innovation actions from becoming ineffective, and make them have a real impact on the company.

Based on a survey conducted with managers responsible for innovation, R&D or Strategy in large organizations, the article defines what companies who are ‘model innovators’ would be like. These companies are defined by maintaining a commitment to innovation over time, and by being present in all their innovation actions. Their innovation strategy is aligned with corporate strategy; they are open to participation from many of their employees; and they implement metrics to track results, either financial or associated to a cultural change within the organization.

A model strategy

Why have these companies become a role-model for innovation?

 They are open to collaboration: survey respondents belonging to model companies acknowledge they are either integrated in key teams within the organization, or they maintain a highly collaborative relationship with those key areas of the organization. This indicates that acting alone to promote innovation is more complicated and unproductive than doing so with more talent.

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– They spare no effort in dedicating personnel to innovation: while most respondents say that the team allocated to innovation is made up of 10 people or less, model innovators recognize they direct more resources (one third of respondents dedicate around 100 employees to innovation).

– They implement incentive systems: they reward their employees for participating in their innovation activities, either by giving them recognition and prizes, permission to develop more projects, or employee bonuses. The article insists on the need to create a set of incentives to increase employee participation in conceiving, creating and launching new ideas.


Calidad Pascual. Thanks to its innovation and intrapreneurship program, the company detects the best employee proposals and mentors them to develop their own business cases.

Santalucía Seguros. The insurance company’s corporate entrepreneurship program combines scouting for innovative profiles with project incubation under mentorship.

– They monitor impact: one of the main failings reflected in the survey’s results is that 41% of companies do not establish metrics to track the impact of their innovation programs. This is not the case in model companies, who do measure the effectiveness and performance of their actions.

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