Innovation, a light in the dark or smoke and mirrors?

Innovating is not just about having a good idea. It is also being able to make it grow, expanding it, and putting it in place. To achieve this, the company has various levers to find the gem on which to build its future. We have selected five that are the most frequently encountered, with their advantages and disadvantages.

Individualized innovation

This could be called “classic” innovation. It relies on research and development centers, with researchers, specialized equipment, and generally a substantial budget. It’s a traditional plan: it is a system that produces patents and may require working in collaboration with private laboratories as well as business and engineering schools and universities. It can create interesting synergies, invent new products, and focus on basic or applied research.

It is an organizational framework carried by professionals experienced in the subject. The innovation is then framed, registered in an organization chart, and given its own operating mode which remains correlated to the priorities and objectives of the company. Classic innovation is a model that exists and works, but is very expensive, very compartmentalized, long to set up, and hyper-focused on strategic issues most often linked to product innovations in particular sectors (pharmaceutical industries , aeronautics, chemicals, etc.).

Open innovation

On paper, it’s a great idea and a great project. Open innovation resides in the mixing of genres by bringing start-ups to collaborate with large groups in a co-innovation process. It’s perfect for communication. But it’s sometimes a little more complicated regarding operational reality.

Open innovation can be difficult to set up because start-ups and large groups do not always understand each other. They do not evolve at the same speed or with the same constraints. Large groups seek security and risk management while start-ups are spontaneous and don’t hesitate to give up or change its mind during the project. A study taken from a Capgemini Consulting report confirmed that 80% to 90% of open innovation centers fail.

Collaborative innovation

Ten brains are better than one.

In short, this is the mantra of collaborative innovation. The goal is to create the conditions necessary to foster innovation within the company, by relying on existing resources and creating a framework conducive to conception. Innovation is not just a business of professionals. Anyone can innovate and this approach proves it. People are always smarter and more innovative in a group than when alone.

Collaborative innovation has the merit of not endangering the company. It is able to fit into an existing organization and grow by bringing together good wills. It is the result of a common vision that encourages co-creation while being carefully coordinated. Because for collaborative innovation to work, it must be managed. Self-management is not always the best solution.

Collaborative innovation is the easiest model to set up, and probably one that can generate the most added value. Because it is inclusive, it goes beyond the search for innovation, by transforming a state of mind and an internal culture. Collaborative innovation can spring forth ideas likely to improve daily friction points for greater productivity as well as actionable projects that can be transformed into concrete and marketable offers. From incremental to disruption, from service to product, including the business plan, innovation affects all layers of the company.


It’s talked about a lot and it should be recognize that intrapreneurship can bring a lot, both in terms of the generation of new business for the company as well as for its internal transformation. However, for this to work, an enabling environment must be put in place. To launch an intrapreneurship program, employees who can enter this mode of operation must be identified. However, not everyone can become an intrapreneur, and identifying these people and giving them the means to set up their project while remaining in the sphere of the company is a delicate approach. Moreover, as long as there is an umbilical cord between the employee and the company (or with their team or function), the chances of success remain limited. Intrapreneurship only works if we can exfiltrate projects, resources, and project leaders. We must also accept that most initiatives do not succeed. If the failure rate of start-ups is very high, that of intrapreneurial projects is just as high. However, large groups are not always ready to accept this.

In terms of intrapreneurship, companies observe each other and tend to replicate existing operating methods. To do so, they will find projects that do not have any friction with the current organization so as not to create ruptures likely to call into question existing dogmas. The they border on schizophrenia: on the one hand, they push to create internal start-ups with individuals capable of working independently, but under a perfusion of resources, while on the other hand, they refuse the turbulence that this can generate. Wanting everything and its opposite generally leads to wanting nothing at all.

To transform the test, intrapreneurship should function as an internal venture capital system with a substantial endowment. The company then spends X million euros on projects to be financed, the majority of which they know in advance will fail. If copying the way start-ups operate in an intrapreneurship approach is the most effective, it is also the most difficult to gain acceptance, because it’s a fight against history, traditions, search for control, managerial habits, and structured and pyramidal organization. To be successful, intrapreneurship should only generate new, risky projects with a strong frictional power. If it bothers, it’s on the right track. If it is too consensual with prudent and diplomatic project leaders, it will crash against the wall of good intentions.

Getting into intrapreneurship is difficult, because it can disrupt the model and the system of thought that have made the company successful. Faced with this paradox, start-ups have launched onto the market to help large groups take this step. They disrupt intrapreneurship by offering to support outsourcing. If the internal forces of a large company are too strong to launch an intrapreneurship program, then it may be possible to manage it externally. A daring and innovative approach which is the key to the success of certain companies. You don’t dare to dare? Others can do it for you.

Corporate hacking

It is the last major lever likely to generate innovation. Corporate hackers can be defined as employees who are rebellious but benevolent towards their company, who want to change the lines and transform the organization from within. Free electrons who love change, coupled with an idealism of strong social and civic values.

Corporate hackers are interesting profiles, because they go a bit outside the traditional system. They will seek to modify an existing method of operation to make it more efficient and more profitable. A deserving approach which is often characterized by a well-known adage: it is better to apologize for trying rather than to ask permission all the time.

In general, corporate hackers are able to generate incremental innovations, but it all depends on the framework in which they operate, the response and the state of mind of middle management. Thanks to them, things are made a little smoother and faster. But that’s not necessarily what will create value in the long run. Are they useful in business? Undoubtedly, yes. Are they able to transform internal innovation? Probably not. But this does not at all mean that they should not be involved in innovative projects, because their vision could prove useful.

For business innovation to be effective, there are different ways to implement it. It can be individualized, but complicated to materialize and conduct; carried out in collaboration between large groups and start-ups; collaborative; intrapreneurial or led by corporate hackers.

While some of these levers allow radical, long-term innovations, others only make it possible to streamline communication or internal processes. It’s up to you to choose the lever that best suits your needs and your organizational maturity!