Challenges for Mature Companies Innovation


One day on twitter someone offered these thoughts on innovation in larger companies, most of which have some longevity/heritage, in a long form thread. I should have written down the author’s name, if not the handle, to credit but I didn’t. That said. Its good stuff.


I often get asked what the most common mistakes are for big, mature companies attempting innovation or business model related #transformation. Here’s a quick thread I’ve learned from helping dozens of companies across many industries. I welcome your additions or edits.

  1. Mature organizations often don’t know the real answer to what can and what cannot be changed at their company. A brand’s purpose is a great illuminator for this, not just something to print on the walls.
  2. Most corporates are wildly bad at piloting. They don’t know what the right metrics are to judge a pilot, what hypotheses they are testing (any pilot should always be a successful learning effort), or allocate enough resource to adjust it until it reaches Product/Market Fit.
  3. Big companies have been trained by business media and “consultants” to emulate other companies. This makes them blind to their own advantages (vs the disruptor). Knowing your strategic assets is critical to win (hint: these assets often aren’t line items on a balance sheet).
  4. Companies can honor their heritage by modernizing its intent, not by treating previous tactics like gospel that cannot be broken (see #1 above about knowing what *can* change). In some ways, this is the purest definition of innovation and the misuse of ‘legacy’ is a pitfall.
  5. The metrics of your new business cannot be the same as those of your original business. This is by far the most common killer of business #transformation efforts. There’s an iconic book on this important subject I require every employee to read called Innovator’s Dilemma.
  6. You’d be amazed how often big companies invest in innovation for PR reasons or “send a message,” not because the leadership actually wants it. I can think of no better way to demotivate employees than repeated, hollow attempts at gaining long-term strategic advantage.
  7. Big companies have spent years maximizing margins on their core business by building world class operations. A new biz model requires customer centricity plus a willingness to enable whatever you find they want. If the transformation can’t change operations, it can’t work.
  8. Innovation requires people to change with their organisation. Learn new things, try new things, support one another. If the culture or structure doesn’t have that- or prevents it- even the best plans won’t work. You can often tell from the C-suite itself if that’s true across the org.
Written by Bruce