Making Innovation Happen - An interview with Costas Papaikonomou

Costas Papaikonomou is delivering the Keynote Speech at the LiT (Leaders in Technology) Summit on 28th June in Cambridge. An author of several books on innovation and the Co-Founder of the Amsterdam-based innovation agency, Happen, in this interview we ask him a few questions about innovation, the challenges, and potential of trying to make new stuff happen.

Costas tell us more about Happen?

At Happen we’re obsessed with innovation as a business tool for growth. So not innovation for the sake of it! Back in 2007, we wanted to set up an agency to put innovation in a different context as larger companies tend to find it harder to innovate as transformative innovation tends to come from new start-up businesses with nothing to lose.

Disruptive innovation usually doesn’t come from established companies as they have cash cows to protect, their chief worry being a loss of margin. The paradox: businesses often believe disruption is the only way to innovate, are paralysed by efficiency losses, yet completely overlook how small changes might help them gain market share as well. It is a funny fact that consumers are not necessarily triggered by ‘newness’, they’re triggered by solutions to their frustrations!

What is the best way to innovate?

By managing trial and failure in two simple areas: what are your customers’ real needs and what commercially viable solutions can be found to answer them. I guess the business that manages to achieve both is best positioned for the future. In order for this to be effective people will need to understand that managed risk is OK. But if you are only innovating to protect your market share then the innovation will only ever be minor.

By starting to innovate, you readdress your future. Large corporations shouldn’t bet their future on one big idea unless their back is against the wall. It’s way more effective to grow with a continuous stream of smaller bets.

Unfortunately, even with minor bets, many organisations still treat them as big risks. A lot of our work in helping business innovate is about helping them manage that risk correctly.

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