How enterprises can capture more value from their innovation ecosystem.

Managing an enterprise innovation team in a big company is akin to managing a supply chain

Start-ups, VCs, incubators and universities supply the components that business leaders need to keep pace with market demands and stay ahead of competitors. Getting an innovation supply chain to run smoothly requires tools, people and process.

In this 3-part blog series, we’ll share what we learned by hosting a workshop for over 60 innovation leaders representing a cross-section of companies in the Fortune 500, as part of the Innovation Leader Field Study held in San Francisco. We’ll highlight what the participants felt was working – and what wasn’t – and present a few successful practices in each of the three domains essential to a well-run innovation supply chain:

  1. The internal network – how to align with the business to understand their needs and priorities to inform what types of companies and technologies are potentially a good fit.
  2. The external network – how to build and grow a network of potential partners who have the ideas, technologies and people that are best aligned with the needs of the business.
  3. The innovation team – how to establish effective collaboration and clear processes across teams, geographies and functions to eliminate redundancies and improve effectiveness.


The majority of participants agreed that a successful, strategy-driven innovation program depends upon developing relationships and a successful working style across internal teams. Where innovation teams seek to align closely with executive leadership and business units to understand where the gaps are in terms of what the company is going to build or buy, and where there is a need to form external partnerships. Being in lock-step with the business allows the innovation team to focus their scouting efforts on the most important strategic initiatives.

Top five practices

  • Find internal champions
  • Regular face-to-face team work
  • Internal brand awareness
  • Building consensus and alignment
  • Build a process

Finally, a customer-driven mindset enables innovation teams within the enterprise to develop a structured approach for understanding how the business is addressing end-customer needs, which informs how to source and commercialize ideas and new solutions outside the organization to best address those needs. But equally important is the ability to manage the innovation pipeline like a supply chain, with tools to power collaboration and communication across the entire process. Modern supply chain management tools would never rely on spreadsheets and email for tracking the flow of goods from suppliers through to the final product. Neither should an enterprise innovation function.

You can read more about these ideas in our recent Innovation Leader article.