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Corporate Innovation

How 3 Leaders from 3 Different Industries Innovate

Olivia O’Sullivan
January 13, 2021

Industry-Specific Innovation Strategies from Manufacturing, Insurance, and Transportation

At the enterprise level, definitions of innovation change depending on company goals and the challenges of each industry. While conducting research for the Forum Ventures Enterprise Innovation Playbook with over 100 innovation leaders, we uncovered how leaders in different industries approach innovation. Today we’re highlighting three of those approaches.

Manufacturing an innovative future

Manufacturing is one of the oldest industries in the world, so new innovators can face an uphill battle when it comes to overcoming entrenched mindsets. One of the entrenched mindsets David Bravo, the Director of Innovation & Technology Scouting at farming cooperative Land O’Lakes, encountered was that many believed R&D spend to be equivalent to innovation. As a result, he had a tough time getting buy-in for innovation projects at the start.

To help move the organization along on its innovation journey, David employed three tactics: he identified key challenges for organizational leaders, found startups that could potentially solve those challenges, and focused on a servant leadership mindset to make it easy for executives to take part in the innovation journey.

David’s key challenge as an innovation leader became balancing multiple moving parts in the journey. With the mindset of servant leader, David built a simple rubric to assess startups that tied to organizational needs he identified with stakeholders. From there, he created briefing documents before every meeting for both the startup (helping them understand organizational context and mindset) and the executives he was serving (helping them understand how the startup might solve a problem). 

“You have to be the servant leader in the back making sure leaders are well-prepared to push the agenda forward,” said David.

Bring everyone together to build a financial rocketship

Like manufacturing, insurance has been around for over a century. However, the insurance industry faces very different regulatory challenges that can be difficult to navigate. When Lisa Wardlaw stepped into the innovation leadership role at MunichRe (she’s now at Farmers Insurance), she realized the need to operate as a guide more than a driver.

She said that in many ways, “traditional” leaders can be put off by a big innovation project. So Lisa’s approach is to spend her time thinking ahead, identifying possible problems and regulatory issues, and crafting a plan for how her plans will navigate them. That way, she derisks the plan for stakeholders when asking for buy-in. 

Lisa likens her work to building a rocket ship. It’s not her job to build everything, but instead to make sure all the relevant capabilities come together in a safe and productive way.

“Some people build rocket launchers,” said Lisa. “Others produce rocket fuel. Others train the engineers. You need to give them all a common purpose: working together to launch a rocket.”

Defending status and expanding transportation opportunity

In the realm of century-old industries, Avis Budget Group is a relative newcomer. However, the company has gone through multiple mergers, acquisitions, and decades of turmoil and change. As a result, it knows that many threats loom on the horizon but isn’t always sure what to do about them. That’s where Arthur Orduna comes in, the Chief Innovation Officer at Avis Budget Group (and formerly CIO at ADT Corporation).

While innovation focuses on creating new things, Arthur augments the definition to also focus on looming threats. His goal is to produce 10x shareholder value, which he can only do if he combines new opportunities for growth while also maintaining the status the company already enjoys. 

To get this done, Arthur uses the three-horizons framework:

  • Horizon 1: Improvements to current business lines and P&L statements
  • Horizon 2: New and adjacent business opportunities
  • Horizon 3: Disruptive ideas and opportunities

“An innovation leader has two concurrent jobs - demonstrating near-term progress while also showing progress toward long-term goals,” said Arthur.

A common understanding with different goals

No matter what industry you operate in, enterprise innovation is focused on creating something new. Whether that’s focusing on internal creation, partnerships, or looking at the horizon for threats and opportunities, it’s all based in building a new future. If you’re wondering how to build and execute on an innovation strategy for your business, download the Forum Ventures Enterprise Innovation Playbook. Need more help? Reach out to a Forum Ventures Innovation Strategist to plan your next move.


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