Conversations with Innovators - Part 4

If you’re a corporate looking to build new tech solutions, you might want to hit the brakes for a second.

As you would know before you start pouring resources into a new project, it’s important to understand what best practice looks like – not just the tech, but functions, usability, user journeys, financials and the other things that can make or break a project.

In our experience an important bit of data that should be included in the discovery/scoping phase is a good understanding of how the problem is already being solved elsewhere.

Every problem is already being solved somewhere.

Your team knows what they’re doing…or do they??

Here’s a few numbers to get you thinking;


  • According to BCG, companies that learn from Scaleups/startups achieve revenue growth that is 1.7 times higher than those that do not
  • The number of startup deals with corporate participation hit a record high in 2021 according to CB Insights
  • Deloitte states that 78% of corporates believe that startups and SMEs will become increasingly important sources of innovation in the next three to five years.
  • Standish Group says that only 29% of software development projects are successful, with the rest either failing or delivering suboptimal results


Why this step is important


  • Why use your own money, time, brand risk etc. when you can learn from someone else (and they’ve spent their money, not yours, in understanding what works)
  • You may end up investing significant resources into a solution that does not meet requirements or those of the customers
  • Can lead to wasted time and money, and may ultimately require a complete overhaul or a fresh start
  • Developing a suboptimal solution can lead to lost market opportunities, market share and revenue, as well as damage to the company’s reputation.
  • Customer needs and expectations change quickly. A solution that was once innovative and effective may quickly become outdated, leading to lost customers and market share. Startups are better positioned to anticipate and respond to changes in customer needs and preferences.
  • A suboptimal solution may result in legal and regulatory risks. In industries such as healthcare and finance the consequences of a suboptimal solution can be severe. 

Five reasons why learning from startups before building technology is important

  1. Insights and solutions: Scaleups and SMEs often have a different perspective on technology problems, and may have already developed solutions that corporates have not yet considered. 
  2. It’s faster (although speed is not always a driver): Emerging tech is known for its ability to innovate quickly. They are not bogged down by the same processes and red tape as larger companies, and can often move much more quickly when developing and implementing new technology solutions. By collaborating with these smaller companies, corporates can speed up the innovation process and bring new products and services to market faster.
  3. Foster a culture of innovation: Collaborating with scaleups and SMEs can help corporates foster a culture of innovation. By exposing employees to new ideas and ways of thinking, they are encouraged to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems.
  4. Build strategic partnerships: Collaborating with scaleups and SMEs can also help corporates build strategic partnerships that can benefit both parties. For example, a corporate may have access to resources and infrastructure that a scaleup or SME lacks, while the smaller company may have expertise or a unique solution that the corporate needs. By working together, both parties can benefit from a mutually beneficial relationship.
  5. Reduce costs: Building technology in-house can be costly, particularly when it comes to hiring top talent and investing in infrastructure. By collaborating with scaleups and SMEs, corporates can often reduce costs while still accessing the expertise and innovation that they need to stay competitive.
  6. Build a more diverse innovation ecosystem: Collaborating with scaleups and SMEs can help corporates build a more diverse innovation ecosystem. By working with companies of different sizes and backgrounds, corporates can gain access to new perspectives and ideas, and build a more robust innovation pipeline that can help them stay ahead of the competition.

Part 1 – the different models we’ve come across as we talk to corporate innovators.

Part 2 – the themes within successful internal teams.

Part 3 – solving complex challenges, often beyond exploration and including ROI.

In this edition we’re looking at the things that are keeping our innovation clients awake at night…not literally, of course (although quite possibly!), but the areas that provide both challenges and opportunities within the context of their role in their organisation.


The things that keep innovation execs awake at night

1. Staying relevant

  • This is an obvious one…but that’s true for a good reason.
  • The rapid pace of technological change and customer preferences means that companies must continually evolve to remain relevant.
  • Heads of Innovation worry that their company might not keep up with these changes, leading to a loss of market share, customer loyalty, and competitive advantage.

2. ROI on innovation

  • Innovation initiatives require varying levels of investments in terms of time, money, and resources.
  • Our clients are concerned about the potential for these investments not yielding the expected returns, both in terms of financial gains and long-term growth for the company.

3. Lack of resources

  • Innovation requires funding, skilled personnel, and time for research and development.
  • Limited budgets, time constraints, and a shortage of talent could hinder the ability to execute projects effectively, particularly ambitious projects.

4. Resistance to change (internal and externalc

  • Introducing innovation often disrupts established workflows and processes, which can create resistance from employees or stakeholders who are comfortable with the way things are done currently, leading to challenges in implementing new ideas.

5. Market disruption

  • The rise of competitors that introduce new technologies or business models is a significant concern.
  • Heads of Innovation worry that their company could be caught off guard by these changes, impacting their market position and revenue.

6. Short term focus

  • Companies face pressure to deliver results, particularly in downturn times like we are in now, which can divert resources and attention away from longer-term innovation initiatives.
  • Striking the right balance between short-term goals and strategic innovation is an ongoing challenge.

7. Intellectual property and security

  • Developing new intellectual property and protecting this IP can be a concern.
  • There’s also the worry of ensuring data security and preventing breaches as new technologies are integrated.

8. Cultural shift

  • Cultivating a culture of innovation across the organization is important to most of our clients.
  • However, changing a company’s culture is a significant challenge, needing to overcome resistance to change and foster a mindset of creativity and experimentation.

9. The global economy

  • Economic downturns or uncertain market conditions can (and are) impact innovation budgets.
  • Heads of Innovation might worry that economic instability could limit the company’s ability to invest in and take risks on new ventures.