Thursday, 3rd December 2020

Why the key to innovation might lie in side-hustles (and technology)

By Jean Phillipe Barleaza, EMEA VP Channel, Alliances and General Business, VMware.

We talk about innovation so much there’s a danger the term becomes devalued.

Everywhere we look, we hear about the need to be innovative. Innovation changes the world, innovation drives us forward, innovation got us out of the cave.

Actually, it’s completely wrong.

Being able to come up with ideas hasn’t done anything. What got us out of the cave, saved Apple from going bust, invented mobile phones, sliced bread and a million and one other game changers was the ability to execute. To turn ideas into reality.

We talk about people being thinkers, and others being doers. As organisations, we need to be both. According to ‘Innovating in the exponential economy’, a VMware and Cass Business School report, that’s a major challenge. It’s coined this idea of the innovation-execution gap, of organisations being able to come up with ideas, but then lacking the people, processes or technology (or all three) to put that creativity to work and deliver tangible results.

So how do you close the gap?

Embracing ideation – look at your ecosystem

One of our strategic alliance partners is Fujitsu. It has approached the whole issue of embedding innovation into its business in a variety of ways. Part of that process is looking at how it works with other organisations.

Brad Mallard, CTO Digital Technology Services, Fujitsu Global, says “We’ve been looking at two key questions – how do we make people more creative, and how do you get those ideas into the business?

“Gone are the days when a conversation and a piece of paper were enough to make a business case for a new concept. Now you need to come up with near-ready products or prototypes that allow decision-makers to see the impact these initiatives are going to have.”

To that end, Fujitsu has engineered a unique ideation methodology it calls HXD or Human Centric Design, and international innovation hubs it calls Digital Transformation Centers (DTCs), where customers and partners across its global ecosystem can come together to devise and build new ideas into life. It also partners with leading tech providers, but also academia - the likes of Swansea and Nottingham Trent Universities in Europe, Toronto University in North America and the University of Tokyo in Japan - to work with its customers and bring their ideas to life.

“HXD and the technologies available in our DTCs allow us to co-create and trial concepts with our customers and partners much faster and at lower cost than before, whether it’s a 3D print of a new product or a next-generation application in a public cloud test environment. It’s about looking at our whole ecosystem – who do we need to collaborate with that has similar mindsets, and how can we work with them to innovate within our organization, and also support our customers to do the same?”

It’s the same for us at VMware – true value for our customers only comes from partnering with the likes of Fujitsu.

The grand vision for legacy organisations - a side-hustle mindset

Fujitsu is also focused on building a mindset shift into its workforces. We’ve all heard how our workplaces need to adapt to the influx of millennials as employees, to attract and retain talent that thinks differently to older colleagues.

For Fujitsu, it’s not simply lip-service. “When you consider that 50% of millennials have a side-hustle or project that makes them money outside of their 9 to 5, you suddenly realise that you might well be employing a whole cohort of entrepreneurs,” explained Mallard.

“You’ve got two options – you either ignore it, and risk them leaving, or you look at how you can harness that mindset, unlock it in others and build that internal entrepreneurial, or intrapreneurial, culture throughout your organisation. Couple that with technology and enterprises can go a long way to bridging the innovation-execution gap.”

It’s the big vision for legacy organisation – a huge opportunity to tap into existing resource to make tangible changes.

Bridging the gap between innovation and execution

What’s apparent when talking to Brad is that Fujitsu is adhering to what the report calls the innovation prism – a trio of people, process and technology to enable the execution of ideas. With its focus on using technology to enable people, and its commitment to putting in place processes which allow it to better capture, incubate and explore ideas, Fujitsu is a fantastic example of one business bridging the gap between innovation and execution.

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