A few years ago I was working with an innovation team at a global financial firm based in Europe. I was helping the team to prepare for their pitch to the innovation board. In the weeks leading up to the board meeting, the team had worked intently on preparing materials for the members of the board to read beforehand. These materials were sent to the leaders one week in advance.

In the pre-read materials, the team outlined their value proposition, business model, risky assumptions tested so far, key learnings, outstanding assumptions to test and their planned next steps. …


In a previous article I wrote about how companies can stop relying on consultants and build their own innovation capabilities. It is difficult to scale innovation as a repeatable process if companies continue to rely on external coaching and training for their innovation teams. One way to think about innovation capabilities is to treat it as an organizational muscle. You need to keep it in shape so that the company can quickly respond to disruption when it occurs.

Over the years, I have worked with several organizations to help them develop a group of internal innovation coaches that can support…


Alex Osterwalder, best-selling author and inventor of the Business Model Canvas, hates it when innovators refer to themselves as pirates. This is because pirates originally operated outside the law and if they were ever caught they were killed. In one sense he is right. When you are working in a large company, innovation succeeds when intrapreneurs collaborate with other key functions. So operating like a true pirate is not really an option.

But being a pirate is super cool and it seems such an apt description of innovators. Even Steve Jobs thought it was better to be a pirate than…


To move beyond innovation theater, intrapreneurs have to become keenly interested in creating value for the companies they work for. This should lead them down a path of figuring out what is true versus myth when it comes to innovation. Authentic intrapreneurs are keenly interested in what works. They are not interested in doing innovation just for show. Their authenticity leads them to take the time to really understand what they are trying to build as a practice for their company. …


When it comes to innovation, the one commonality that unites people who work in large companies is a sense of doubt. Can this really be done in our company? Getting people to step over the breach and try to innovate is often met with a sense of trepidation. I often get the feeling that people are waiting for somebody else to try first before they join in.

Although many people find very little to disagree with when it comes to the concepts of innovation, their main concern is how to get it done within their company and whether they have…


When it comes to innovation success, I find it difficult to stop for a moment and smell the roses. When I meet corporate innovation teams that have succeeded in launching one or two products in the market, I become fearful that they are about to get distracted by their success. The question that is constantly spinning in my head is whether they could repeat that success within the same organization on a new project.

Corporate innovation is hard to do. Success often comes through navigating political landmines and corporate bureaucracy. So when teams finally succeed, they deserve to be congratulated…


Why Intrapreneurs Are Not Just Entrepreneurs Working Inside Large Companies

In a previous article, I wrote about how people wrongly assume that entrepreneurs working in startups create more transformative innovations than intrapreneurs working in large companies. The research data reveals the opposite. In fact, over 70% of transformative innovations are conceived, developed and commercialized by employees working within large companies. This finding stands in stark contrast to how contemporary society currently celebrates entrepreneurs as heroes.

It is important to ensure that people do not misconstrue the point I am trying to make here. My goal is not to denigrate entrepreneurs…


Leaders in established organizations have now moved beyond debating whether innovation is necessary. The conversation has now shifted to finding the right ways to innovate. As a result of this, companies are launching a lot of innovation programs. I am consistently finding that whatever innovation program I have been brought in to advise is not the only program happening inside the company. It seems that companies are now spawning loads of random innovation programs — all claiming to do the same things and all with different or even competing objectives.

This can be a little unsettling. In some large companies…


On April 7 2020, CB Insights published a list of 160 biggest product failures of all time. The list is a good illustration of what happens when corporate innovation goes wrong. I was not at all surprised that innovative ideas sometimes fail. This is after all a part of the game. What did surprise me was how expensive a majority of the failures were. While failure is an inevitable part of innovation, expensive failure is not a necessary part of the process. Understanding this distinction can help leaders manage innovation failure in times of uncertainty.

Why It Is Hard For…


As the pace of change increases, the great companies will be the ones who can explore new opportunities, while running their current business. This ability to live in the two worlds of explore and exploit will be the true test of corporate leadership. Even within business education, how to run an ambidextrous organization will become Management 101.

What is key for leaders is to understand that they cannot manage their innovation portfolio in the same way that they manage their current business. We expect innovation teams to have a different mindset that is focused on searching, dealing with ambiguity, testing…

Tendayi Viki

Associate Partner at Strategyzer. Author of Pirates In The Navy. Thinkers50 Innovation Award Nominee 2017 - Radar Thinker 2018. Learn more: www.tendayiviki.com.

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