‘’Building an innovation lab doesn’t make you innovative’’

The majority of digital transformations fail because companies focus too much on the technology and structures not enough on the people involved.
By: | November 8, 2019

The number of startups that fail is very high. And so too is the percentage of failed digital transformations and corporate innovations – in the region of 90%. Why is the rate of failure so high? Because companies forget the people element, according to Chris Colbert, former managing director of Harvard Innovation Labs.

“Big companies need some synthetic effort. So they say ‘We are going to hire a chief innovation officer or we’re going to buy an innovation startup or build an innovation lab’. These are not bad things, but fundamentally they will not change the capacity of the organization to be more innovative’’.

The key is to start with your people first he advised. ‘’Innovation is a function of the behavior of the people within the organisation. The way they see, believe, think and connect the dots. You put a ping pong table on every floor, you will end up with better ping pong players but I’m not sure you will end up with a more innovative organisation’’.

Instead, innovation must be demonstrated top-down from leaders. ‘’We start by a commitment from the leadership team to foster the behaviours we want for the people who work for us. Being innovative, nimble and open. We commit to becoming a different kind of organisation through the people who work for us. But nobody wants to do this as it sounds hard and messy and exhausting.’’

Colbert, speaking at a fintech conference in Singapore hosted by Saxo Markets, spent four years heading up Harvard’s technology incubator for current students and alumni, helping hundreds of startups and entrepreneurs.