Your Random Acts of Innovation Aren’t Working

February 16, 2024

This recent Master Class featured Anna Veatch, Managing Director at Innosight and Erez Agmoni, Global Head of Innovation at Maersk, the $51 billion Danish shipping conglomerate.

Veatch shared one slide that defined innovation as “something different that creates value.”

Another slide laid out various innovation initiatives, along the the “predictable failure modes” that sometimes stop them in their tracks.

“A culture of innovation is incredibly important,” Veatch said. “But if you encourage people to adopt new behaviors, before changing some of the structure around them, in some ways, you’re asking them to kind of become a martyr — how are they pursuing something, but they’re going against the grain of what exists? And so you have to encourage more than behaviors, you have to support them with a whole system around them.” Many of the initiatives on this list “will run into problems” when pursued as a standalone thing, Veatch said. “You need to bring a holistic view to the set of things that you’re putting in place.”

Veatch polled the webcast participants as to how they would characterize their organization’s innovation approach. Here’s how they responded:

  • 12 percent: Ad hoc and uncoordinated
  • 17 percent: Getting started
  • 57 percent: Have pieces in place but work to do
  • 12 percent: Starting to hit our stride
  • 5 percent: We have a mature innovation system.

Agmoni said his innovation team has nearly 20 employees. “We have three main pillars that the team is looking after: automation and autonomous; digital innovation; and product innovation, where we’re creating new products for the customers. Structurally, we started as a North America innovation team, where we reported to the regional head. And as of last year, we got a new mandate to…[become] global. We shifted to report to the head office, a high level in the organization. So I think you need that kind of structure and position in the organization; that is important, to ensure you have the right sponsorship. People need to understand that it’s important for the company…because there’s always something that is not perfectly working, and you need some help from teams that are too busy.”

He also addressed sources of funding for projects. “Originally, we were sponsoring 100 percent of the proof-of-concepts. So we got our own budget to sponsor that. Recently, we decided to change that to do a sharing sponsorship. We want the business to invest, because otherwise it’s too easy for them to say, ‘Yes,’ and then say, ‘No.’ …We do kind of a sharing of the costs between the innovation center [and] the business that is actually asking for it — making sure that they will stay connected, and [are] willing to make it a success. So that’s kind of [one] we learned the hard way. And it’s OK. You’re not going to be starting an innovation setup where you know all the answers in advance… each organization will work slightly different than the others.”

To watch the webcast, click “play” above. You can also download Veatch’s slides in PDF or PowerPoint form below.

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