So yes, we are going to the NEXT conference in Hamburg this year, whose theme is: Digital sucks! After years of excitement with everything digital, the time of disenchantment is upon us and the Next conference will ask / answer the question of what’s next? This triggered my thinking about what is next in business agility, now that all the corporate excitement about working with startups and being intrapreneurs is deflating like a souflé.

What’s next?

Consultants will soon come up with the next innovative, never seen before concept that will enchant, excite and bring hope to big corporations, like “working with startups” “agile” “management 3.0” did not so long ago. Before you know it, you’ll be surfing the next wave of trends hoping to gain business agility, and like the previous one you followed, you will only get a superficial glimpse and not much result before you move on to the next. STOP being trend junkies

Start slowing down and take NOTICE of what that previous trend brought.

Yes maybe it didn’t magically solve your innovation pipeline problem, it didn’t live up to the high expectations consultants sold to you… BUT it brought some movements, some shifts that might not be financially measurable — but Philippe could probably argue on that one. However, it probably brought other ROIs that need to be consciously appraised to really become valuable and potentially reproducible.

What ROIs for business agility?

For instance, here are three often underestimated ROIs that we have observed in various corporations who implemented some kind of initiative (whether successfully or not) in intrapreneurship training and projects, internal incubation or excubation.

1. Scouting ROI

Having tried to enter a new market, discovering new customers habits, understanding where not to go, which monetization model works in which country, how startups ecosystems work… might not have allowed to uncover your next market opportunity. But still, you have acquired very intimate learnings and business knowledge that cannot be read in a market study report. People in functions that were too close to the product get a better market awareness which will inform their future decisions about product design. In the end, even if the finance is not clear, you did save a lot on opportunities cost. Why not find a way to measure that?

2. Competency ROI

Having been in an incubator, tried an agile method, or participated in an intrapreneurship project may not have yielded business results, but has increased teams capabilities. The new ways of working, the experimentations, the faster production cycles, the beta versions, getting early customer feedback, pitching, working in small teams, having reduced time to deliver, flying under the radar, having no or little resources… have become new practical capabilities that can support innovation. How close did your HR team got to understanding that? Shouldn’t someone capitalize on the new best practices?

3. Cultural ROI

Creating a co-working space or your very own corporate incubator doesn’t mean it was be used after the initial press releases and enthusiasm. The myth of “build it and they will come” has been debunked over and over again. But you might have finally understood that culture eats structure for breakfast. Your failed (but trendy) initiative was part of the learning curve. So you might want to focus on the mindset of collaboration, of being away from your desk, of experimenting with no guarantee of success, of spending time learning, reading, and connecting. This is an emphasis on a real intrapreneurial culture that can shake the whole corporate values and beliefs system. You might even end up focusing on not just selling products, but added value?

What NOW?

Most corporations that iterate and surf on new trends every three years (open innovation, design thinking, fast prototyping, startup venturing) end up failing short of their initial objectives. They also reach new ones along the way. They just don’t pause long enough to value them and jump to the next fad.

My simple and actionable advice is to change what is valued to include a bigger array of KPIs reflecting the extended ROIs mentioned above.

And secondly, yes, keep on experimenting with all these new trends. But don’t over-extend and don’t pretend you’re becoming customer-focused or ‘agile’ overnight. Have a long-term plan about your corporate culture and along the way be aware of your organisation’s new capabilities. This is the hard part and the most valuable.

Oh, and contact us if you’re going to NEXT in a few weeks!

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