Spoke on Tuesday last week at the Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Growth conference. Sixty people representing a number of large firms and corporate venture capital organizations, all huddled in a room in a Cambridge Hotel for two days, wondering what the economy is going to do to their companies’ zests for continued investment in innovation. Of course you know by now what I was talking about in my keynote address… innovation as an emerging business function. And that means, of course, that while budgets might be trimmed during recessionary times, the innovation function cannot be obliterated off of the corporate organization chart, mission statement, and/or investment priority list. Tightened up, downsized, maybe. But not wiped out. And we talked about ways in which that can happen. Slow the pace of the portfolio. Shrink the portfolio a bit. Figure out how to start monetizing opportunities even as they’re still developing. That’s right…it can (and should) happen that way. Leverage university resources. Leverage lots of things. All of that for now.
But the really cool thing about this conference was just how competent the people were. Wow. So much experience in that room. The people who attended spoke eloquently about scoping and evaluating opportunities, about maturing projects, about getting them funded externally as well. Some showed unbelievable savvy at shaping their companies’ future strategies, through developing scenarios about the impact of technological innovation. Some, for certain, are just starting out. But this was the first time I’ve been in a room with people focused on innovation in which I felt that there is a quorum, indeed a groundswell, not just of firms who say they want to do this, but of firms with some very, very competent people executing on the innovation agenda. They’re strategic, they’re tactics oriented. They’re focused on people and technology and leadership and business models at the same time.
I got their business cards…will be inviting them in as guest speakers to our classes. It’s great to see a good thing start to take off and grow.