Insight of the Week Avoid the Silo Capture Trap in Large-Org Innovation

Avoid the “Silo Capture” Trap in Large-Org Innovation

by Peter Temes, Founder & President of ILO

It’s a classic trap for large-company leaders: you have a head of innovation, she’s built a great team and does great work, and then in a pinch you pull her and her team from the scanning, testing, and connection functions of innovation and put them in charge of the new, urgent process or product group. Suddenly you’re ahead of the competition instead of behind. You’re delivering on the coolest, newest stuff without the risk of bringing in outside experts as leaders – your head of innovation is already a proven team player, and her team is awesome. What’s not to love?

A large financial-services firm we worked with did exactly this. They had a top-notch head of innovation who was working on half a dozen new areas of potential growth for the firm, including mobile. The CEO woke up one day realizing his whole firm was behind on mobile, and he needed to have a better story to tell his board and Wall Street. So he took his head of innovation and made her the head of mobile. She knew the turf – she’d been testing mobile strategies, partners and tools for six months, as one slice of her portfolio. Now, she became the Chief Mobility Officer. Her team became the mobility team. And they had a great quarter and a solid year.

And then they found themselves behind on data analytics, behind on AI, behind on augmented reality.

Why? Because they had lost the generative side of innovation – the smart, well-managed team focused on what’s coming next. Innovation had become trapped in the mobile silo, and the present stole from the future, as happens too often.

Far better: Have the head of innovation always be hiring in deputies who can roll from the innovation team, take part but only a modest part of that team along, to captain new programs, projects and functions as they mature.