We were recently given the grand tour of a new office designed to improve innovation.
A multinational insurance giant had set up the space on the top floor of a building in Singapore’s financial district, and the standard ‘innovation essentials’ checklist had obviously been consulted. There were trendy co-working spaces with funky seating pods, Foosball tables and ideas boxes. The staff had completed all the right design thinking courses and were being encouraged to join hackathons.
Viewing the impressive skyline from this lofty vantage point gave us the impression that we were at the pinnacle of contemporary innovative achievement. Yet although the company had invested millions in the endeavor, something was wrong.
At the end of the tour the head of innovation led us into one of the colorful co-working rooms, sat us in a brainstorming hub, and confessed that despite the changes people were not engaged in collaborative co-creation. Everything had normalized. Employees had become just as territorial, individualistic, and competitive as they had been, and the company was not getting the results it had hoped for.
Why would an open and apparently up-to-date approach to innovation like this not be working?
Just ticking the boxes doesn’t make it right
Investment in innovation focused activities in general and in innovation labs in particular has dramatically increased over the last few years. In fact spending on R&D continues to increase by up to 10 percent per year in most regions around the world, and almost 40 percent of the largest 200 multinational companies now have dedicated innovation centers with targeted innovation spaces, strategies and tools.
But does investing in the hardware and following a formula like this really lead to better innovation?
Our consultancy work with companies around the world has given us a unique insight into the realities of innovation strategies in action, and through this work we have seen apparently strong innovation strategies fail over and over again.
Many companies appear to be trying to tick off an innovation essentials checklist to ensure there is the freedom to explore and connect, yet perhaps they are missing the main point.
How to really elevate and accelerate the innovation process