Innovation is crucial for companies to stay competitive, but where do the innovative ideas come from?
According to Andy Binns, co-founder and Director of Change Logic and award-winning author, more and more those ideas come from “corporate explorers” – pioneers who spot new opportunities and build new ventures from inside established organizations. Ellie Amirnasr, director of digital ventures at MANN + HUMMEL, is one of them. She launched a successful corporate startup – a digital solution for clean air management – inside her organization. She is a chapter author, alongside Binns, of the Corporate Explorer Fieldbook: How to Build New Ventures in Established Companies.
Binns and Amirnasr recently joined the Outthinkers Podcast to discuss how companies can empower their corporate explorers to drive innovation.
What is a corporate explorer?
A corporate explorer is an employee who identifies customer problems, runs experiments to solve them, and works to commercialize the solutions. They exist in all sizes of corporations. They are especially important in complex, established organizations because they help spot opportunities and chart the course to the organization’s future. Along the way, they also create a culture of agility and constant learning.
In the episode, Amirnasr shares her own story of launching a digital clean air management solution within MANN + HUMMEL. She spotlights the importance of securing an influential sponsor in the organization and getting buy-in from top management.
How can leaders create a culture for corporate explorers to thrive?
Management needs to actively foster a culture where people feel empowered to spot opportunities, experiment, and fail while collecting learnings. Corporate explorers also need a top management team that isn’t afraid to admit they don’t know everything. Binns and Amirnasr urge leaders not to shut down ideas too quickly.
Advice for corporate explorers trying to drive innovation from within their organizations:
On the side of the corporate explorer, you must understand the context in which your executive management team is operating and understand that they need to make choices aligned to the strategy. Let go of ideas of good and bad or right and wrong.
Focus on conducting experiments to test hypotheses. State measurable goals to show ownership and accountability within your company. Determine what success would look like and work backward from there. Break your bigger goal into smaller steps and connect them to the actions you need to take. Think about the metrics you need to obtain early on to know if a hypothesis is true (for example, a landing page with a demo or pre-order link.) This way, you can the readiness of your market. You’ll also want to check in often to find out if there are any roadblocks and if you are still on track.
The biggest mistake many corporate explorers make is starting with an idea over a problem. Instead, start with a customer problem that needs to be solved.
By embracing and empowering their corporate explorers, companies can unlock game-changing innovation.
Tune into the full podcast episode to learn more about nurturing your organization’s own corporate explorers.