The team at CB Insights lived up to their names again today with a great article about big corporates and innovation.  Basically, when it comes to innovation, they're damned if they do and they're damned if they don't. 

When they don't do anything, they're described as being too traditional and stuck in their old analogue ways. However, if they DO try and do something all the Know It All's who've only ever built a couple of Apps snipe from the side lines about how they don't know what they're doing and are bound to fail. 

In the article CB Insights refer to General Motors, but exactly the same could be said of Lloyd's in relation to TOM, Aviva's Digital Garage or any other big insurers innovation ambitions. 

The old adage about trying and failing is still as sound today as it always has been.  The whole community needs to innovate. Lloyd's, the big composite insurers and the mega brokers may not be the most progressive and nimble organisations in the world, but it's good to see them at least trying. 

Here's the full article.

"Corporate haters gonna hate

Corporate innovation is hard.

Last week, we'd applauded some comments by executives at General Motors in our newsletter as they had candidly acknowledged the changes coming to the auto industry. While it is well known that change is coming to autos, many big company execs publicly pretend that it won't impact them. And so GM's comments were refreshing in their honesty.

We also mentioned GM's investment in Lyft and acquisition of Cruise for a reported $1B+. The response I received from many about these deals was that GM is dumb money and chasing innovation.

And here is the Catch-22.

When corporations don't do anything, they're described as risk averse and behind the times. Dinosaurs, luddites, etc.

But perversely, when they do something (as GM is), all the back seat drivers aka haters show up to say what they're doing is dumb.

Innovation and maintaining relevance is hard especially in companies that are decades or centuries old.

That's why 99% of corporations just do the theatrics around innovation. You know the ones whose senior management talks about failing fast and disruption and who visit Silicon Valley VCs to "make innovation part of their DNA."

And talking a big game is easy.

The problem is that corporations often suffer from a knowing vs doing gap.

There is no way to know if what GM is doing is going to work or not but at least they are "doing." They are trying things and putting their money where their mouth is.

Instead, most corporations spend inordinate amounts of time trying to "know" which comes down to creating Powerpoint presentations with frameworks about markets, talking to VCs, and "networking." 

They are great at "knowing" but get tripped up on the doing part. 

Because doing requires conviction and putting real money towards initiatives or bets. And some of these bets might end up being big or they also could go to zero. And the idea that something goes to zero is risky especially in corporations where failure is more often than not a career limiting maneuver. 

I used to lead the innovation efforts at American Express so I have seen this from the other side.

If you are an employee at a big company that is trying to innovate, it's a lot more fun and interesting to be at a place that is doing and experimenting versus one that prides itself on knowing and acting smart but which doesn't actually have the courage to actually take risks."

So again, well done to GM for actually doing"