Priorities in corporate strategies vary but there’s an obvious pattern to be recognized. Successful companies use creative initiatives to stay ahead of competition. Joint ventures and acquisitions are no longer the leading go-to approaches. Innovation labs, intrapreneurship programs and online hackathons are winning over the hearts of organizations and innovative individuals alike.
In today’s competitive, ever growing industry one thing is clear: “A dash of innovation and a pinch of collaboration can do wonders in every recipe for long term survival.”
Here are 5 different ways to garnish that recipe.
Before diving into modern innovation methods, lets flip through the older cookbooks. Acquisitions and joint ventures are timeless solutions that shouldn’t be forgotten. The effort required however, should also not be undermined.
Companies shopping for the next big thing often acquire startups as a tactic. They bring fresh ideas that diversify your corporate strategy. Their disruptive technologies, can be groomed and molded for your benefit. As a bonus effect, competition is usually neutralized.
Alibaba recently acquired the 9.5 billion dollar Chinese food delivery startup “Ele.me”. A move that directly countered Tencent’s backing of food delivery apps Meituan and Dianping.
Fun fact: The name “ele” means “hungry” in Chinese.
The 260-million-user app and delivers 9 to 10 million orders a day. The strategic acquisition gave Alibaba an entry into the delivery and transportation industry. And with it, the potential to further expand innovations in this growing sector.
Joint ventures are monumental for entering foreign markets. You’re basically handed a silver platter loaded with existing relationships, network, capabilities, and market knowledge. A great strategy for expanding your existing business model.
Uber’s asian competitor Grab recently announced their strategic partnership with oBike. They’re combining networks and integrating the GrabPay functionality into the oBike app. This exemplary collaboration has improved the quality of both platforms while innovating transportation.
Due to a joint venture between Alibaba and Auchan, the french grocery retailer can seamlessly enter the asian market. Auchan gains Alibaba’s strong distribution network, technological know-how, and understanding of the local market, With this kind of support they’ve easily forced their rival Carrefour out of the Chinese market.
Auchan also partnered with Sun Art Retail, the largest grocery chain in China, leaving Carrefour with very few options. To cut costs, Carrefour had to expand into convenience stores and e-commerce.
The right connections are worth as much as any business strategy.
Modern Innovation Methods
Traditional strategies such as acquisitions or joint ventures are definitely valid innovation models. Depending on your goal, however, emerging trends prove even more valuable.
Companies nowadays are opting for more modern methods. Innovation labs, hackathons and Intrapreneurship programs accelerate and keep innovation in-house. Asian tech companies such as Baidu, Samsung and Tencent are either creating innovation labs or organizing hackathons to get ahead.
Physical environments focused on innovation are emerging in many major brands. Big players PayPal, Citigroup, Mastercard, Expedia, Microsoft, and IBM set up centers in the innovation-driven Asia Pacific. Samsung has also created their own Strategy and Innovation Center. Tencent opened AI innovation labs in Barcelona and Seattle.
These spaces emanate a startup-like atmosphere. They encourage out-of-the-box thinking and risk taking. Key elements for accelerating the development of new projects and ideas.
It’s important not to equate innovation with creativity. Successful innovation requires creative ideas combined with sustainable and profitable business models. With clear direction on how to contribute to company goals, project schemes can be strategically aligned to corporate strategies.
Last year, Alibaba announced its $15 billion investment in its new Alibaba DAMO Academy initiative. It’s a global initiative that aims to open seven innovation labs in Beijing, Hangzhou, Singapore, Moscow, San Mateo and Bellevue in the US, and Tel Aviv. The focus lies in research ranging from data intelligence, internet of things, fintech, quantum computing, artificial intelligence and more. Alibaba is slowly but surely creeping up on Amazon, Apple, and Google by accelerating its innovation through this initiative.
Companies organise Hackathons for three main reasons:
- Attracting talent
- Market their brand
- Develop ideas for software solutions that solve their needs.
It’s an approach that brings new talent and fresh ideas to your firm.
Hackathons were born in Silicon Valley roughly a decade ago. Nowadays, especially in Asia, more and more companies are following suite. Tech giants Tencent and Baidu launched their first Hackathons in 2012 with tangible results. Since then, Baidu has endorsed numerous Hackathons to explore the possibilities in emerging industries and transfer those findings to its business.
Back in 2013 Baidu saw huge potential in the green tech industry. Seeking fresh product ideas, they challenged developers to make a digital product that satisfied a “green lifestyle” need.
The human presence detecting application Social Smart Home took the gold. Most of us have a lazy tendency to leave on the lights and AC when we leave a room. This app controls the lighting and temperature conditions within the smart home in the most energy-efficient way possible.
Modern hackathons usually start online and end in real-life events. Hence, the term “O2O” or online to offline hackathons. Essentially this model is applicable in any business, sector, and problem.
The first steps are easy:
- Identify the aim.
- Choose the target communities to target as well as
- Find the right intermediaries
Our free ebook gives you a full guide on organizing a hackathon.
Intrapreneurship programs empower employees to develop promising ideas. The right resources and support motivates them to solve company needs their way. These programs stimulate innovation, collaboration, and employer branding.
The first step is working with specialists to find those creative, risk takers, that can handle ambiguous and complex situations that can manage the project. Team’s are then formed and objectives set. What’s important for this to work is the autonomy to operate as their own business.
One of the most successful intrapreneurship examples in an Asian company was the development of the PlayStation. Ken Kutaragi, a junior employee at Sony, revamped his daughter’s Nintendo, planting the seed that became PlayStation. Executives at Sony immediately saw the potential in Kutaragi’s design. He was given full responsibility to oversee the creation of the prototype. Thus, one of the most profitable consoles and greatest gift to gamers was born.
Your Next Step?
Each of these models have their own personal charm, what they all have in common is promise. Consider your firm’s corporate strategy and choose the model that best aligns with your business.