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Challenges around corporate innovation

Challenges around corporate innovation
Ed Connolly_Challenges around corporate innovation

Thought leadership from Ed Connolly, Strategy Director and Director of JLP Ventures, John Lewis Partnership.


When it comes to innovation there is little value in getting too hung up on rigid process. Each idea has such a radically different complexion at the start and then often takes a shape as it matures that would have been hard to predict. Flexibility and agility are crucial, as is an understanding that each idea needs its own individual treatment. 

Some pieces of innovation are created as a reaction to market shifts, others from finding a spark from the seed of an interesting idea, others still look like longer term ‘moonshots’. So Instead of applying a ‘one size fits all’ process, I believe it is better to think about the environment that will allow innovative to flourish. 

The key is bringing together driven individuals with great ideas with a clear set of outcomes and who are then allowed the freedom and empowerment to explore how to get there. Leadership must see itself as a facilitator; setting the vision and then working hard to unblock external and internal routes to market.  


The likelihood of failure in corporate innovation is certainly much higher than from existing operations. The risk of failure should act as a gauge of whether the project is worthwhile; if it’s not high risk, then you’ve got to question if you’re thinking big enough. 

Essential to becoming a more innovative business is learning to accept and genuinely celebrate the lessons that come from failure, treating those lessons as successes in their own right. Some of our best stories of innovation success are built upon multiple failures along the way. We need to always strive to find the best market fit for our ideas and it’s rare to hit the bullseye with your first dart. Embracing that makes the culture of innovation more resilient, helps maintain that critical ingredient of enthusiasm, and improves the route to value creation.

Every great team knows it needs to get better and better as a unit every year. Developing a culture that can live and breath these values is the best way to attract new talent and strengthen a network of contacts and partnerships. 


‘Disruption’ is surely just the way it is now. To succeed, brands need to accept that challenge and become the disruptor. If you are not constantly reinventing yourself then you will be left behind very quickly. 

For us in retail, disrupting is about judging what the customer really wants and excelling at it first. Speed? Quality? Experience? Increasingly it’s all three. I believe it is the most exciting time ever to be in retail - we are put to the test like never before and the mandate to try new things has never been stronger. 

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