Innovation (not) at the core

By Claudio Cisullo

A common mistake in industries faced by severe performance pressure is to turn to well-known innovation tools and strategies. Especially in sectors where innovation is not at the core of the business, a new approach is required. A proven method has entered the race – so far, with impressive results.


It is undisputed that innovation is a key driver of corporate growth and performance. It is equally widely accepted that installing and maintaining an innovation capability is a non-trivial, organisation-wide endeavour. However, what tends to be overlooked is that not all organisations can – or should – innovate using the same tools. Instead, for innovation to generate the necessary business outcomes and organisational benefits for the long term, a different type of path should be explored.


First stop: In-house innovation

A wealth of innovation strategies and instruments is meanwhile available to organisations. Although it makes sense to absorb the know-how previously put to test by others, those facing pressure to innovate often fail to be innovative in their methods. These usually include hiring senior experts from tech-giants, expecting them to inspire staff and managers alike and push the culture towards a more exploratory one. They also include newly established innovation teams reporting directly to a C-level executive in order to showcase the strategic importance of innovation for the company. Particularly committed organisations introduce a Chief Innovation Officer to drive and oversee innovation activities. As these efforts take time, organisations feel under pressure to showcase their innovation credibility to the outside. As a result, we see a plethora of apps being launched, partnerships with start-ups announced and innovation prizes awarded. 

Second stop: Externalised innovation

For organisations not used to innovation being part of their development, decision-making and performance structures, in-house innovation is extremely difficult to operationalise and often fails. The innovation teams rapidly find themselves isolated as they don´t fit into the established system, while being considered an expensive burden on the business. A few years back, we have seen several major corporations open impressive innovation labs in Silicon Valley to complement or replace their in-house innovation efforts. These labs (again) gathered staff from tech-giants and in some cases also respective industry experts to ensure compliance and interoperability with existing corporate structures. Being a lot more difficult to supervise and keep in touch with than in-house innovation teams, only few of the innovation labs were connected to the core business and were able to drive major change. 

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About the Author

Claudio Cisullo is a Swiss-based serial entrepreneur and investor. He is the founder and Chairman of CC Trust, a family office invested across the biotech, leisure, pharmaceuticals, professional services, real estate and technology sectors. Among his most recent investment is Chain IQ Group, a globally active provider of procurement services.


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