Trends in Corporate Innovation for 2024

Over 80% of global companies rank innovation as a top priority – yet in many companies it remains undervalued. Amidst continuous global uncertainties and complexities in political, social, and economic spheres, corporate innovation takes on an increased importance for organizations. Whether or not to embrace it should by no means be left to chance anymore.  

But what are the latest trends in corporate innovation? How can 2024 be the year of your company either embracing or modernizing its approach to innovation and getting ahead? 

Here's a few trends which should be on your radar if you're planning on investing in corporate innovation efforts across your company this year.  

1. AI and Corporate Innovation

AI has become readily accessible to businesses and individuals over the past two years. In 2024, its role will continue to focus on automating processes rather than replacing human creativity. Experts state that “by handing over our everyday menial brainwork to AIs, we will find ourselves with more time to leverage our truly human skills”, citing creativity and innovation as the main beneficiaries.  

There are use cases where corporates use AI to gather detailed company information, structure and visualize it for the employees to spark their creativity.  

This requires AI to be handled in the right way. Instead of fearing that we'll ultimately lose our jobs to this revolutionary tech, we should see AI tools as friend rather than foe. In this way AI enhances rather than detracts from our uniquely human skills including creativity, innovation, and critical thinking.  

When it comes to corporate innovation, seeing AI as a co-pilot enables the use of this technology to improve our understanding of complex environments. It is an aid that can be used during the innovation process to help people ask smarter questions, which in turn makes them better problem solvers and breakthrough innovators.” 


2. Added focus on sustainable innovation  

Our world is currently facing various challenges on economic, social, and environmental fronts. The current circumstances require a stronger emphasis on genuine sustainable innovation efforts. 

While corporations have generally focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR) measures and traditional business innovation, this sidesteps the potential transformative impact of creating new products and services that can have positive effects on the triple bottom line, namely planet, people, and overall business profitability. 

The pressure on corporations is increasing, as external stakeholders are increasingly questioning the authenticity of organizations' commitment in this area. Failing to respond to this imperative through timely and innovative approaches across all three spheres could result in certain organizations being left behind. 


3. Making innovation measurable 

The ability to measure progress and prove ROI is becoming increasingly vital. While traditional metrics like revenue growth and profit margins are still essential when it comes to measuring innovation, these tend to fall short in capturing the nuanced nature of innovation efforts.  

This is where Innovation Accounting comes into play. It allows companies to evaluate innovation projects with a different lens, considering factors such as customer feedback, learning outcomes, and the speed of experimentation. 

Innovations that can provide immediate value to customers or improve internal processes gain a competitive edge. ROI metrics should consider not only financial gains but also the speed at which innovation occurs and the quality of the ideas and innovations produced. Companies that can rapidly iterate on ideas, respond quickly to market changes, and harness customer insights effectively, will be the frontrunners.  


4. A focus on cost optimization 

The quest for cost optimization continues to be an important trend in 2024, with corporate leaders seeking innovative strategies to strike the right balance between short-term efficiency and long-term sustainability.   

Amid a challenging economic landscape where innovation budgets are often threatened to be cut or tightened, companies are directing their attention towards investing in Horizon 1 and Horizon 2 innovations. The former concentrates on refining existing operations for incremental improvements, while the latter involves exploring new market opportunities and capitalizing on core capabilities.  

These innovations, with shorter time horizons compared to Horizon 3 innovations, enable organizations to achieve present cost efficiencies while still strategically positioning themselves for future growth. 


5. A stronger move towards decentralized innovation 

Decentralized innovation is gaining traction as organizations seek more agile and cost-effective ways to drive idea generation. Instead of relying on a central innovation hub, companies are increasingly pushing innovation efforts throughout the entire organization. 

This shift allows employees at all levels to contribute their ideas and creativity, fostering a company-wide culture of innovation. It's a departure from the traditional top-down approach where innovation was confined to a select group of decision-makers. By involving a broader range of perspectives, companies increase their chances of discovering groundbreaking ideas. 

Efficiency is key to decentralized innovation. Companies are implementing Innovation Operating Systems that enable employees to work on their ideas without unnecessary red tape. Clear KPIs and reporting mechanisms ensure that innovations align with the organization's strategic goals, maintaining a balance between providing structure and encouraging creativity. 


6. Tackling complex challenges through collaboration 

The days of corporate innovation being a solitary endeavor are long gone. Collaborating with partners within the value chain and across industries enables companies to address intricate problems collectively. Topics like the circular economy require a collaborative approach that spans suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and even competitors. Together, these stakeholders can create innovative solutions that benefit the entire ecosystem. 

"Supply chain innovation" is fast becoming a buzzword in corporate circles. Companies recognize that by working closely with their partners, they can achieve more significant impact and drive sustainability initiatives. This collaborative approach not only enhances problem-solving capabilities but also builds resilience in the face of global challenges. 


Combining free thinking with structural discipline 

For innovation to work effectively, innovators need peace of mind and a chance to work on ideas without unnecessary pressures. This creates a team of intrapreneurs who can develop and test their ideas without requiring the green light from their superiors at every stage. 

However, organizations that wish to give their employees more authority in the process must ensure that some structural guidance is in place. It is an area where integrating modern innovation Operating Systems, that incorporate a variety of innovation management tools, processes and methodologies is critical to guide the innovator during the ideation process. Clear KPIs and reporting will ensure that innovations are developed with contextuality, desirability, viability, and feasibility in mind.  


Building your innovation strategy 

An upgraded innovation strategy in 2024 will require leaders and innovation professionals to embrace a new mindset that ensures a truly company-wide buy-in in innovation. Navigating uncertainties and overcoming market volatilities will require a significant investment in innovation efforts to ensure that your organization is fit for the future. 

An innovation operating system can implement holistic changes that benefit your whole team. To learn more about how our offers at rready can transform your organization, reach out to us.

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