How innovation could succeed more often … and why it does not

I have the privilege to be exposed to a lot of creative, innovative people. Some of them, more specifically some of the “slashes” I wrote about before on this blog, are in the process of launching their own start-ups and creating innovative solutions. And in this process, they are spending a lot of time creating presentation decks and pitching to business angels or venture capitalists, in order to get money to burn during their development. They need resources, and they work hard to get them.

And capital to burn is important, because as Eric Ries states:

Startups that succeed are those that manage to iterate enough times before running out of resources.

But it is not the only important thing when innovating. Because just like a sales effort with a known client requires a lot less effort – per some sources this could make a factor 10 difference – than a sales effort while cold calling, innovation in a context that is conductive to it is far more likely to succeed than innovation in the wild. Because most start-ups fail. We focus on those that make it, but we never see the graveyard of interesting initiatives that never made it because they ran out of resources before bringing their solution to market.

So here is a call to action to organisations all over Belgium and Europe: if we truly want to be an innovative environment, we need to open up and welcome those innovators in our midst, rather than to be afraid of them and try to defend against them. Because innovation does not just require venture capitalists but perhaps even more so a context, an environment in which innovation can occur.

Such a the context is either a place or a situation inside of existing markets or adjacent to existing markets which is interesting and ripe for innovation. And who better to identify such opportunities than embedded players and innovators working together.

A case in point: Sodexo helped Xpenditure to combine with another start-up we support, iAlbatros, to create a complementary solution that puts the whole in an entirely new solution space. This combination, because of geographic distance, would likely never have occurred outside of the Sodexo innovation eco-system.

We need more of these examples in the wild. There is a lot of learning and innovating that remains to be done.