Episode 13: Innovation at Large Enterprises with Ed Olson-Morgan at Bain and Company

oday's Guest: Ed Olson-Morgan, Head of Bain & Company's Americas Development Lab, ADAPT

Show Notes

What is Innovation? (1:01)

It's very broad. Not always disruptive or extraordinary.

--Process and/or human-based.

--Doing something different in an impactful and measureable way.

Nurturing Innovation at a Large Corporation (1:45)

Takes an appetite and empowerment for risk-taking in the organization; especially risks that might not work out.

--Takes grit.

--Innovation is built over time like good architecture. Many times this is a long series of small steps and achievements (innovations).

--How do you find and motivate innovators in a large organization? Cross discipline, focusing on a smaller scale for each innovation, listening and empowering small innovations when you see them (as a leader).

Process of Innovation (5:41)

Where do you start? Picking something on which you want to move the needle (especially a pain point tied to revenue). Then figuring out how to take action and get a result early on. 6-12-18 weeks for the first win(s). Create process that generates excitement and tangibility.

--Innovation roadmap? Good idea, not? Good tool but needs to adjust as the process executes over time. E.g. evolve the roadmap as necessary. Need to be flexible and adapative.

--Pivoting isn't giving up, it's letting go.

--Keeping the why in plain sight is critical. The goal, the why needs to remain strong.

--Innovation Side Effects: Keep an eye out for low effort, high-value process tweaks or quick wins.

--Innovation isn't just data collection. Innovation needs to deliver value immediately and then certainly, accelerate that over time.

--Nurturing a mindset of innovation at all times is key to building this muscle into the culture of a large organization.

--Many techniques: kaizen and continuous improvement

Innovation: Releasing fast or slow? (16:30)

--GE or Bell Labs vs Amazon release pacing.

--In some ways, both need to be held in balance.

--This question is mostly a result of the immense acceleration in the pace of the ability to release innovations and products. We can provision tech so quickly now.

--Crossing the Chasm- Segments of the market. There are many more early adopters now.

Downside of Speed (20:40)

--The ability to move fast has allowed too many bad ideas to flourish and poor products to see the light of day.

--Not always good to move fast and break things.

--Organizational discipline helps filter bad stuff before release.

The biggest opportunities for enterprises (22:06)

--To innovate internally at the same rate at which they're trying to innovate externally.

--Customer-first focus.

--Equip your innovative teams internally; improve employee tools

--"What can we make self-service?"

--Embracing open-source tools.

--Be very careful, very judicious with build vs buy decisions.

Mistakes are enterprises making when thinking about innovation and tech (27:27)

--Tech-first, early-adopter thinking. Need to identify the jobs to be done first and then fit the tools/process to the use cases.

--Avoid the big bang innovation/change. One big bet/solution rarely produces organizational value as envisioned.

--MUST earn the right to complexity.

--Micro-services-as-a-fad. Refactoring to micro-services isn't inherently a good idea. It's a forever-project. Can be a big mistake. Rather, take a CapitalOne approach.

How to Thoughtful Innovation (33:20)

--People-first, small wins. Innovation really is a human problem first and foremost.

--Failing a few times and learning the lessons along the way.

--Always ask: What are the human needs involved?

--Picking the right tech to solve the problem is critical.

--Incentive structures in large organizations get in the way, too. Innovation for the sake of innovation is bad. Full stop.

--Many times, innovation is simply taking ideas/tools from one context and applying them to a new context.

--Timing and the supporting ecosystem is important for launching innovations.

--Downfall of RIM/BlackBerry and the transition to iPhone.

What's next in 2019 and Beyond (41:50)

--Few months: see how companies respond to immediate changes in the economy as staggering economic growth plateaus. Impact on business models.

--React Native and the impact on app development. A few years out: excited to see the impacts of how easy it will be to write and launch a mobile/web app. How will freed-up developers be utilized post this.

--Low/no-code platforms for data science, ML, and AI.

Build Thoughtful Software
Fahad Shoukat
Written by

Fahad Shoukat

Fahad has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA. He brings over 15+ years in Business Development, Strategy, Sales, Product, and Marketing in various industries such as software development and Internet of Things (IoT). His experiences have led him on an unwavering pursuit to meet thoughtful people and build thoughtful software.