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Corporate Innovation Culture: Fostering Innovation within Business

For March’s Imperial Business in the City event, Professor Bart Clarysse, Professor of Innovation at Imperial College Business School, was joined by Dr Johannes Sommerhäuser, Head of Business Model Innovation at Bosch Headquarters, to explore how businesses can help to foster corporate innovations.

Professor Clarysse opened the evening by questioning ‘to what extent should the company act as a facilitator rather than a process manager?’ He argued that whilst large companies are very process orientated, entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily fit well with said processes. Often companies find themselves imitating creativity; stripping down buildings to make them look like garages and installing technology that employees can’t use in order to give a ‘Silicon Valley’ vibe to their office. This is often what companies associate with entrepreneurship. Professor Clarysse questioned the validity of these associations, questioning whether ‘companies are going to continue to fill in templates to make processes appear innovative?’


To what extent do you need processes in order to be innovative?

Professor Clarysse explained that companies aren’t using processes because they’re useful, they’re using them in compliance. These processes often have links to the end goal; businesses wrongly assume that through having complex processes in place the final result will be something of quality. He explained that if you think of innovation in an entrepreneurial way you will see that these processes are difficult. Innovative projects and innovative people don’t work in milestones.

I have worked with many different companies over the past ten years, and when I ask them, ‘what are the results from all your innovative projects?’ there is a silence. Sometimes there is one small project that is a success. This is a big project for companies – when trying to be innovative, you have to think – what results am I looking for here?
Professor Bart Clarysse
Professor Bart Clarysse

The discussion also centered around the difficultly in managing the sales process. If you don’t know what you want from you innovation process, how can you manage the sales process? Are you going to have your intrapreneurs who are making the product act as entrepreneurs to sell it?

Finally, Professor Clarysse touched upon how companies are often unsure where their innovations fit into their branding strategy. He discussed the importance of companies carefully considering how they want to portray their experimentation labs. He suggested it’s often best placed under an umbrella that the company are able to leverage, to ensure that the branding to their current customers isn’t destroyed.


How have Bosch invested in Business Model Innovation?

Dr Sommerhäuser opened by explaining that Bosch have indeed experienced many of Professor Clarysse’s aforementioned challenges. In 2015, Bosch began to invest in Business Model Innovation. They wanted to focus on more than just product innovations, and to equally focus on new types of business models.

‘Product innovations are important, but alone won’t be enough to ensure our company’s continuing success.’
Volkmar Denner
CEO Robert Bosch GmbH

The presentation explored the three parts to the service portfolio in Bosch’s Corporate Business Model Innovation; network, methods and tools and consulting and implementation. They soon discovered that success was not necessarily about having the best tools or methodologies, but it was more important to find a common language between departments to ensure clarity in projects.

Dr Sommerhäuser went on to explain that the consulting and implementation part is the most important aspect of the process today. People not only consult remotely, but are sent to work onsite all over the world to become part of the innovation team, and ultimately, integral parts of the process. The discussion then centered around Bosch’s Business Model Development framework; beginning with ideation, then preparation, validation and finally scaling based on a fully validated Business Model.

Explaining the importance of beginning with a hypothesis, Dr Sommerhäuser  explained, ‘We don’t ask what the solution is that you are hoping for from the business model. Instead, we start with user experience and a design thinking approach. We think through the problems that the user or the customer has.’

Dr Sommerhäuser summarised with three key points:

  • Business Model Innovation is critical to Bosch’s strategic goals and future success
  • The Bosch Business Model Development Framework will greatly increase the likelihood of Business Model Innovation success.
  • The importance of management in embracing Business Model Innovation and laying the foundations to drive it successfully

All in all, the evening raised crucial questions and talked through potential solutions surrounding the successful implementation of a culture of innovation into large corporations. A lively question and answer session saw audience members engage with further discussion surrounding branding specific projects as well as questioning why so many leading technology companies are frightened of innovation.

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