Behavioural theorists often suggest that risk aversion (what we might lose) is stronger than the desire to change (what we can gain). In the course of these columns, however, you will become aware that the will to stay on the path of change makes it possible to achieve it, because, in fact, you can do nothing about what is enriching for you … It is a question of situation management, especially when it comes to open innovation!
For this first corporate incubator that I am chronicling, first of all, it should be pointed out that it was a very young structure at the time it was studied. In other words, its manager was not very far removed from the work to be done and the benefits that the structure could bring to the group. This corporate incubator will make all kinds of radical choices to guarantee his first steps in the group. This corporate incubator will make all kinds of radical choices to guarantee his first steps in the group.
In this context, the group in question « is positioned on a market that is changing and intends to take advantage of the potential for innovation brought by the incubated start-ups to succeed in establishing its positioning for itself », but also in its relations with other large groups. It should also be noted that until the decision to launch a corporate incubator, « the group had ad hoc and not very formalized relations with the world of start-ups and that the latter were considered as simple suppliers of technological solutions rather than real partners. » Finally, in the opinion of the head of the incubation structure: « the group has a good image in terms of innovation! The group has had to reinvent itself several times in the course of its history! ».
The implementation of the corporate incubator should therefore reflect a new point of inflection and an awareness of the need to change things, this time in terms of innovation. « The corporate incubator was initiated and initiated by the CEO! » and beyond, « this launch was widely and fully supported by the official speech of the management. » This was a great advantage in legitimizing the corporate incubator. Indeed, « the concept of the corporate incubator being new, promoting and communicating widely on the missions of an incubator is essential. »
Initially, two missions seemed essential to this manager to succeed in his mission: « reinventing the future by capitalizing on innovative start-up solutions » and « developing short-term commercial partnerships with start-ups. » It should be noted that the work carried out by the head of the corporate incubator was different depending on whether the focus was on one or the other of these missions.
Indeed, when the mission made little or no use of internal actors (mission: inventing the future with startup), the managerial work carried out was mainly aimed at changing normative associations concerning the factory of innovation. Pragmatic, the manager of this incubator told me that, « in this case, the implementation of a corporate incubator relies heavily on the start-ups. » (and therefore, not on the internal actors).
On the other hand, when the mission called for a stronger involvement of the internal actors (mission: commercial partnerships with the startup), the managerial work carried out was rather a work of building common identities and networks. It was essential for the head of the corporate incubator to « be able to count on voluntary players to support such and such a start-up that had developed a Ready to use solution. »
Over the years, the manager of this corporate incubator, while giving himself these two missions, has chosen to prioritize his actions… « the choice to do an 80-20 », hat is to say that he has focused on activities where the group can be a help, without being a leader n development (mission 1), while bringing, from time to time, solutions a little more immediate or « ready to use » to the market lines (mission 2). When asked for an explanation, this is what I was told: « Often, developing commercial partnerships requires integration, time spent in the group, changes in the roadmap, etc.” (mission 3). And so, it can get in the way at that level. The group cannot absorb everything! »
The above elements therefore indicate that the head of the corporate incubator wanted to be pragmatic in order to gradually adapt the structure to the context. He deliberately « played » with the functional ambiguity specific to this type of very malleable system. Moreover, to go further, beyond the missions previously mentioned, the head of this corporate incubator set himself the ambition to develop two new missions: « corporate venture and spin-off. » By increasing the scope of its activities, this manager has thought (rightly) « to increase the number of players involved and develop new networks of alliances » to propel its system to the forefront of the scene.
What about the results? After a few months of existence, the head of the corporate incubator acknowledged two points that it is useful to share:« For the moment, I have the impression that all these practices ultimately today completely support the group’s image. »
« My KPIs are going to be in two or three years from now when I’ve managed to launch two or three cool stories, whether it’s a spin-off, an investment or an integration. »Moral of the story : « You have to communicate individually with a lot of people in the group because it takes time to get your messages across! » Also, as a corollary to the ambitions and other objectives that can be set for a corporate incubation scheme, internal and continuous evangelization is indispensable. A lot of explanations are needed before grasping the nature of a new approach. It’s always easier to tell a story when you’ve run the machine once or twice…