Friday 18 December 2015

How to Create an Excellent Innovation Outpost

Start-up guru and Lean Launchpad developer Steve Blank has published a fascinating set of four blog posts on Innovation Outposts with co-author Evangelos Simoudis, venture capitalist.  In the first post, the authors discuss a history of corporations and their response to technological change.  The post notes how corporations became very good at development and have spent less time on research.  Essentially, corporations were unable to keep up with innovation occurring outside their specific development field.  In part, this was because of the number of scientists and entrepreneurs moving to start-ups because of the opportunity to do cutting edge work—and this was helped along by the availability of venture capital.  Because of this dynamic, corporations have needed to monitor (“sense”) and “respond” to the development of new technologies that may impact their existing lines of business, particularly in an “innovation cluster,” such as Silicon Valley and Boston.  The second post describes innovation outposts.  It provides several examples of innovation outposts and discusses the functions of those outposts: primarily to “sense” or monitor new technologies and second, to “respond,” such as by acquiring technology or partnering with companies with attractive technology.  The authors note that there is a danger that most innovation outposts will become innovation theater—essentially very good at sensing, but not at responding. 

To address the danger, the authors, in the third post, provide six questions that should be considered at the C-Level.  And, the authors emphasize that those questions must be considered at that senior management level and not at the corporate R&D level.  The questions provide focus for the corporation and its goals for the innovation cluster.  Finally, the last post provides the nuts and bolts for how to develop an innovation outpost, including having the right staffing and “corporate buy-in for productization.”  The authors plan to write a book based on the subject of the posts.  It would be interesting to see a complimentary discussion of the role of intellectual property and the intellectual property lawyer.  We eagerly await publication of their book!

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