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Many companies looking to tap the spark of Silicon Valley and accelerate their innovation practices have opened "Innovation Hubs," sponsored "hackathons," visited the technology companies along US-101, invested in accelerators, and spent a lot of time researching their futures.
Many of these endeavors resulted in little return for the businesses, even if they were presented as trophy "innovation centers of excellence." Rita McGrath, an author and professor of business at Columbia University, defined the term "innovation theater" when businesses "perform a whole spectrum of things that looks like innovation, but creates little real value."
In many instances, participants of previous innovation hubs often were far from safety of their nice, hipster espresso bars, but had no real authority to influence development priorities, even though they were so far from headquarters that no of their education was withdrawn from the core businesses.
To avoid these limitations, SRI International has partnered with sponsor Nomura to create the Nomura SRI Innovation Center (NSIC). Building on SRI's technological gain, innovation process expertise, and Nomura's market acumen, NSIC provides an immersive development environment headquartered in Silicon Valley that allows Japanese businesses to explore and develop their innovation portfolio, processes, tools, and culture.
NSIC has partnered with a team of innovative process experts, experts with business development backgrounds and intrapreneurial business leaders to develop a program and supportive environment that allows its members businesses to benefit from the best Silicon Valley has to offer.
The innovation portfolio is growing.
To make every business grow consistently, they must develop a solid foundation of new ideas, capabilities, and systems to rapidly explore, test, prune, and deploy those ideas.
Horizon 1, or sustaining innovation, are usually managed within the core business. Horizon 2, or emerging business innovations, can be managed both within the core business or in a separate innovation group. Horizon 3, a combination of innovative ideas, technologies, and transformative business models, is best kept separate from the core business as they often require different expectations and incentives to be successful.
Through inspirations, partnerships, and investments, members of the NSIC program have an unique exposure to new technologies and business models within the SRI labs and Silicon Valley startups. To take advantage of these opportunities, participants must develop the knowledge and tools necessary to manage a wide spectrum of projects and the necessary organizational rigor to execute and maintain projects in real-time.
Innovation is a cultural heritage.
The most substantial aspect of a successful innovation firm is its culture and the conviction of the people within it. Its important to recognize that the environment and incentives required to drive a company to excellence at scale through execution are not the same as those required to explore and test new positive advances.
As in Silicon Valley, many corporate organizations will unintentionally kill innovative thinking by examining emerging ventures as they would continue their operations. For this reason, it is often a good idea to separate those groups, and there are only places as steeped in innovation culture for a cutting-edge innovation team to flourish. While the population of top research schools, investors, and entrepreneurs in the region still make it a unique crucible for insight, innovation and entrepreneurship.
The NSIC program is designed to provide an experiential learning environment where members have unlimited opportunities to collaborate with startups, researchers, and entrepreneurs, and to safely explore and experiment with new ideas and technologies that would not be considered within the core business. Through this innovation culture immersion and time spent building and experimenting with prototype models, they learn to value risk-taking and productive failure as key to their innovation practice.
Innovations.Processual and actionable
Every breakthrough innovation was the result of a rigorous process for identifying, developing, and testing before it became a reality. Even 'happy accidents' are the innovations that occurred as a result of a mistake, due to a situation which stipulated the appropriate conditions for finding the solution.
Established corporations at NSIC must prioritize execution and incremental improvements, while also investing enough in emerging markets and new businesses so they may be sure to disrupt themselves before someone else fails.
Participants can diagnose and develop "tech readiness," analyze customer experience through design thinking, experiment new business models, refine opportunity maps with forecasting and retro casting, use experimentation and rapid prototyping, and acquire the skills and intuition of an intrapreneur to produce successful changes within an established organization.
The ecosystem of innovation
The final component that requires a successful innovation practice is a well-supported innovation ecosystem. By leveraging the SRI and Nomura networks, NSIC members gain instant access to a global group of academic and technology experts, business leaders, venture capital investors, research labs, startups, and innovation practitioners.
These connections can rapidly accelerate progress on any innovation initiative by reducing the time it takes to identify and validate market opportunities and competitive threats, while simultaneously assessing technology readiness. This ecosystem can also set the standard and support out-of-the-box thinking and investing in innovative ideas that would not fit the core business model.
Innovation is the engine and driving force behind the growth of innovation.
Innovation is not a high end goal, but a motivation and a process for creating value. NSIC's mission is to help its members develop a robust innovation culture, create a comprehensive innovation methodology and toolkit, support a diverse ecosystem, and manage a pipeline of portfolio projects.
It's about providing innovation value that aid businesses move out of the task to survive and into the running to prosper.
Visit the website to learn more.
Chris Cowart is the Managing Director of the Nomura-SRI Innovation Center.