When corporations want to restart innovation, there are several challenges they face. The systems in place help the corporation run in predictable ways but are incompatible with the unpredictable trajectories innovations take in their early stages.
The traditional approach since the 1940s is setting up “skunkworks”, teams which operate like a small independent company, insulated from the rest of the corporation and its budgeting, procurement, approval and reporting systems.
The process is very difficult to implement well because it requires the direct and constant involvement of one senior executive, by senior meaning at least a division president. Below division president level, the leader lacks the clout necessary to shield the “skunkworks” from corporate interference. However, a division president or higher has already a full-time job running an important part of the corporation. Very few can afford leading what amounts to a startup, in parallel with their corporate obligations.
Startup Foundry Accelerated Transformation (SFAT) is our answer to the challenge. We work with corporations to set up startups dedicated to those areas of interest for which they would normally create a “skunkworks”. Being a real startup, it would be outside the corporate systems, therefore shielded from the type of processes which would smother innovation before it gets the chance to evolve into a full-fledge product or service. The senior executives would act as a mentors and members of the board, a role they are comfortable with and which they practice anyway. We take care of the day-to-day operations, nurturing the “skunkworks” like we do with the regular startups.