Innovation Imperatives:  What Future Innovation Leaders Must Do

February 25, 2016 Shekhar Mitra, Ph.D.



I have been a student of innovation for most of my 32 year career – the vast majority of that career spent inside Procter & Gamble helping to drive innovation for brands like Crest White Strips®, Crest Pro Health®, Olay Regenerist®, Prilosec®, Dolce & Gabbana®, and Gucci®.

Since retiring from P&G in 2012 as an SVP of Global Innovation, I now see innovation outside the Fortune 50 environment - advising through YourEncore and serving on boards for private equity, new ventures and a Fortune 500 company.

So what does it take to be successful in innovation?  Here are my observations.    

Innovation Imperatives

Having now operated in both large and small companies, I believe the most successful and innovative companies of the future will increasingly be the ones that reach beyond themselves. These companies identify superior solutions to problems, whether these solutions lie inside or outside of the company.

The most innovative companies develop a culture of rewarding their teams and individual innovators who find the best solutions or the best ideas, irrespective of where they source them.

This requires a new breed of innovative, knowledgeable leaders who leverage creativity to find connections, quickly assess and vet ideas externally, and use influence to seamlessly work internally to move solutions forward.

In addition, these companies reinvent their client and external collaborator relationships to be truly integrated, built on trust, and open to proprietary approaches that can be a win-win for both sides.

Why Big Companies Must Look Outside

Today more than ever, small companies are crucibles of innovation that big companies cannot easily replicate.  Why? 

Big Companies Have Lost a Talent Monopoly

Increasingly, the best minds of the younger generation of innovators are choosing careers outside of big or mid-sized corporations. Why? They desire the freedom to be entrepreneurs and to be part of a passionate, motivated environment. This type of environment allows them to take risks, yet have the upside of success at innovating.

Late career technologists and consumer insights and trends experts are also becoming more accessible and entrepreneurial – through their choice or in response to corporate downsizings.  In fact, YourEncore has effectively leveraged this Rise of the Free Agent Workforce mega trend.  Our observation from working across industries as YourEncore experts is that Open Innovation can now operate in a world of abundant knowledge and smart people. Our network of experts are finding great connections for client needs in this environment. 

Big, Transformative Ideas Thrive in Small Environments

New ventures and start ups have passionate knowledge holders and experts but often work in a frugal environment. They leverage user-centric approaches and a sense of urgency to design prototypes. They use reiterative approaches to hone in on the one design that works the best. As big corporations get even bigger, they tend to develop often complex systems and processes needed to operationalize and qualify initiatives. But these often get in the way of advancing big, transformative ideas. What do these big ideas require? Experimentation, an intuitive feel for the consumer and technology, and risk taking rather than freezing designs too early for them to succeed.

Small companies are developing tremendous technologies and insights, and the most successful, innovative companies will organize to harness them.  By selecting the right leadership, creating the right incentive structures, and establishing open innovation capabilities, companies can work with strategic partners to drive mutual success. Read more here about advances and developments in Innovation.

About Shekhar Mitra, Ph.D.:  Dr. Mitra is a Consulting Partner for YourEncore and top expert on the creation of innovation strategies, ideas, open innovation connections, and organizational culture. Having retired from Procter & Gamble as an SVP of Global Innovation, Dr. Mitra specializes in helping companies develop their innovation capabilities and portfolios through proven methodologies. 

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