With digital, everything moves faster. To face ever more disruptive competitors, large companies need to rethink their innovation cycle. One way of doing this is to benefit from the agility and innovation capabilities of startups.
But how do you implement an open innovation policy and combine the company’s managerial approach with a startup’s entrepreneurial style? How do you handle the acculturation process? These are just some of the questions raised during Acsel, a digital transformation think tank, on 18 May 2016. And we were there.
Among the keynote speakers who gave the benefit of their experience:
- Merete Buljo, CDO of Natixis Eurotitres
- Sylvain Theveniaud, Director of the Allianz accelerator
- Hugues Hansen, Managing Director of Start’inPost, La Poste Group’s accelerator
- Yves Lacheret, Senior Vice President Entrepreneurship Advocacy for Accor Group
open innovation IS ALL VERY WELL – BUT HOW?
Are large companies ill-equipped for open innovation? That’s what Yves Lacheret (Accor Group) believes:
“Unlike the industrial sector, which has always been in the habit of reinvesting part of its revenue into research, in service industries such as tourism and retail, we don’t put money back into the business. Either because margins are too low, or because it’s not part of the company culture. So these are precisely the sectors that are most under threat from innovative new players.”
And yet, doing nothing means “taking a risk in your core business,” says Hugues Hansen (Start’inPost). So how can companies adopt an open innovation approach? Sylvain Theveniaud (Allianz) says he had a great deal of leeway to set up his acceleration programme. And it’s doing well: a year since it was launched, eleven startups have benefited from six months’ support and two partnerships have already been signed.
At La Poste, the programme is divided into two parts: a three-month test phase with a La Poste business unit and nine months’ personalised coaching, sometimes combined with an investment in the event of fund raising. In this case, the investment is made in Start’inPost’s name, which means they don’t have to go through the group’s process which is legally more complicated. Startups are taken on as applications are received, and after the shortlisted applicants are assesses for their motivation and “human accountability”. Since it was started two years ago, the accelerator has launched 23 experimentations.
“LOTS OF MEETINGS AND opportunitIEs”
“The accelerator generates lots of meetings and opportunities,” explains Sylvain Theveniaud from Allianz. “But there are also lots of direct approaches.Every six months, we take on new startups. For example, we currently have a startup that works on block_chain because we wanted to move things forward internally in this area.”
“Working with startups also helps acculturation within the company,” says Merete Buljo (Natixis Eurotitres):
“The aim is to get employees to develop open innovation reflexes and to promote this culture across the country.”
But what about the obstacles? Hugues Hansen explains:
“The most common difficulty is that the startup comes to see us too soon, with a product that’s not mature enough to launch or even offer in pilot mode. Then there are problems resulting from a poor analysis of the market and the competition in France and internationally and a lop-sided business model.”
Sometimes, misunderstandings can arise because startups have a distorted view of major groups, especially where digital is concerned, as Sylvain Theveniaud explains:
“The startups who come to us with a ‘digital revolution’ are rather taken aback when they find themselves up against specialists who know their stuff better than they do. Large groups have real expertise in the field and the ecosystem.”
“SHARING, acculturATION AND evangElisING!”
“To anticipate the future, you have to be able to make disruptive innovation,” says Hughes Hansen. And this requires, according to Merete Buljo, “A network dynamic. It’s very important to get cross-industry feedback:”
“Companies that succeed today are the ones that can imagine something really disruptive. You have to get out from behind your desk and go and see what everyone else is doing: spend some time outside the company, come back with fresh ideas and then it’s a case of sharing, acculturation and evangelising!”
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