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Digital innovation needs the right people, the right culture and the right approach, but there are several ways to achieve that.

Made by Many has over a decade of experience in digital transformation and product innovation. To be brutally frank, it hasn’t always been easy. Yes, we have a phenomenal success rate — but it’s built on hard learning.

First, learning how not to do it in the dotcom bust and boom (siloed, linear, waterfall); later, working out an agile, lean, integrated and iterative approach to product development that brought not only success, but also an understanding of how to promote change and new capabilities in our clients’ businesses.

In the last few years there has been an increasing demand for help in establishing dedicated innovation teams (labs, garages, factories… choose your metaphor for making, testing and learning). A constant tension has been the relationship between the Lab (let’s call it that) and the core business, a tension between the desire to nurture learning and change and the need to exploit existing assets and to scale. What’s the best way to deal with that dilemma?

One of the biggest challenges facing innovation teams is that there is no simple formula for getting it right. In-house is not wrong, so long as the right skills are present, whether they come from owned expertise or agencies/consulting companies.

Acquiring or investing in start-ups isn’t wrong either, so long as you have a good investment process, and can provide the acceleration or incubation support necessary — neither of which are as easy as they might sound.

The quality of the relationship between the business and the Lab is a critical factor for long-term success. They have to talk to each other and learn how to swap people, products, culture and processes. Above all, they need to learn how to scale products from proof of concept or pilot to mass market and a new or existing customer base.

If the wrong kind of resources are applied, administrators and project managers end up running a business operation with few variables to worry about, rather than technical experts with strong domain knowledge that could be combined with external design and product skills to create exciting new product ideas with viable business models. This is often described by people with MBA training as searching for 'business models', but a business model without a product idea is an empty shell.

Want to chat about innovating inside your business? Get in touch! Email us at [email protected]

William Owen

William Owen Founding Partner

William founded Made by Many in 2007 as a truly interdisciplinary product consultancy that would bring together the best of design, engineering and business culture. William advises senior executive teams on digital strategy and product innovation.


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