Over the past few years, there has been growing concern about the lack of innovation among corporations. This lack of innovation is a major problem for businesses, as it can lead to stagnation, decreased competitiveness, and even obsolescence. As the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, it's becoming increasingly important for companies to find ways to foster innovation and stay ahead of the curve.

Here are the 5 key takeaways from this article: 

  1. Companies often become bogged down in maintaining the status quo, only supporting innovation that reinforces their existing product or service.

  2. To recapture an innovative spirit, companies should look outside for new ideas from creative thinkers and academics.

  3. Companies such as IBM and Microsoft have become stagnant in terms of market-moving innovation.

  4. To foster an environment of creative thinking and risk-taking, companies need to focus on nurturing ideas over time.

  5. For any organization to become a leader in innovation, understanding that new ideas require time and support is key.  Patience and creative thinking will help organizations stay ahead of the competition.

This article examines how large corporations such as IBM and Microsoft struggle with fostering innovation, and how they can reignite their innovative spirit to create groundbreaking solutions and stay competitive.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Corporate Innovation: A Historical Perspective
  3. Current Challenges for Corporations in Fostering Innovation
  4. The difficulty of Recapturing Innovative Spirit
  5. Looking to Academia for New Ideas
  6. Conclusion


In this guest post, Bill Inmon, widely known as the father of the data warehouse, explores the challenges that large corporations face in fostering innovation. Drawing from examples such as IBM and Microsoft, he explains why it is difficult to recapture an innovative spirit once a company starts focusing on improving current products. He suggests that companies should look to academia for fresh ideas, and outlines the steps they should take to incorporate these new ideas into their corporate culture. Inmon argues that only with a renewed focus on innovation can established companies continue to remain competitive.

What is Innovation?

Innovation refers to the process of introducing something new or different and making significant changes. It is often associated with creativity, risk-taking, and experimentation. Innovation can be applied in a variety of fields, from business to technology.


Corporate Innovation: A Historical Perspective

Large corporate organizations have traditionally been associated with innovation. Companies like IBM and Microsoft have changed the world by creating new products and services that revolutionized the way people worked, communicated, and used technology. However, in recent years these companies have started to become stagnant with their innovation efforts; rather than inventing truly disruptive ideas or technologies, they focus primarily on tweaking existing products and services.

  • Examine IBM: IBM has been synonymous with pioneering technology since its entrance into the market. The mainframe computer revolutionized their industry, while IMS and IMDB/DC further certified them as truly innovative. And all this time later, these breakthroughs continue to foster IBM's reputation and financial stability.

  • Examine Microsoft: Microsoft's revolutionary idea of software for personal computers was a great success, quickly propelling the company to new heights.

However, both Microsoft and IBM have struggled to keep up with innovation in recent years. This lack of innovation has been a source of frustration for customers, shareholders, and employees alike. How can these companies regain their innovative spirit? The answer may lie in looking outside the organization for new ideas. Collaboration with universities or researchers from government agencies could be a powerful way to bring fresh perspectives into the company. This could open up new opportunities to explore and develop groundbreaking products, services, or processes.

For companies that want to foster innovation internally, the challenge is in creating an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration. Incentivizing employees with rewards for taking risks as well as finding ways to encourage out-of-the-box thinking can go a long way toward cultivating an innovative mindset.

Ultimately, innovation can be difficult to achieve in large corporate organizations, but with the right strategies and approaches in place, companies can look forward to exciting new products and services that have the potential to revolutionize their industries once again. It just takes some creativity to make it happen.


Current Challenges for Corporations in Fostering Innovation

In order for corporations to foster innovation, they must be willing and able to embrace new ideas.

John Doe had a great idea that became an innovative product. He started a successful company and earned a reputation for innovation - but the technology powering their product could still use improvement. So, the company's development team set out to make it better.

Things continue to progress. Sales began to increase and the company seemed to be making real progress in the marketplace.

One day, an inspired engineer at the company had a one-of-a-kind business idea. After some contemplation of how her idea could be put into practice, she chose to present it to her company with the hopes that they would develop it further.

Despite her employer's proclamation of being a leader in innovation, as soon as she mentions her ingenious concept, it is met with derision and even hostility as she explains her idea. She gets no support whatsoever.

The new idea does not complement the business of the established company nor does the new idea improve on the original idea of the company. Despite its potential brilliance, the novel concept was met with complete rejection; regardless of how remarkable it was.

The bright young engineer has no choice but to quit and take her idea to more fertile grounds.

Now, what just happened here?

A company that supposedly prides itself on innovation has become decidedly a stodgy, non-innovative company. The only innovation that the company will support is an innovation that supports the original inspiration of the company. The young engineer simply has no room for growth in the supposedly innovative company.

As the story portrays, unfortunately, many organizations become bogged down in maintaining the status quo. The only innovation they support is that which reinforces their core product or service. This is understandable, as corporations want to protect their market share and profits. However, there is a danger that this attitude can stifle the creativity necessary for true innovation.


The difficulty of Recapturing Innovative Spirit

So how does a company recapture its once innovative spirit?

The answer is to look outside the four walls of the organization and seek new ideas from creative thinkers and academics. This is easier said than done. However, once a company starts to think only in terms of improving on what we have today, the company is lost.

In an attempt to find new innovation companies such as IBM and Microsoft have tried to mine the halls of academia. And what have we come up with? Watson. Big Data. And other silly ideas that are bearing little if any fruit in the marketplace. 

How does a once innovative company start to sponsor innovation?

Simply put, companies need to foster an environment of creative thinking and risk-taking. But it is clear that trying to turn a big, rich company into a place where innovation can be fostered is a difficult thing to do.


Looking to Academia for New Ideas

In order to stay ahead of the competition, large companies like IBM and Microsoft should look beyond what they are doing today. Academic research often contains the seeds of innovation. 

Benefits of Leveraging Academic Knowledge and Expertise

The benefits of leveraging academic knowledge and expertise are tremendous. By applying the knowledge and insights gained from academia, companies can develop innovative products, services, or processes. However, academic ideas need to be nurtured and incubated over time before they can become marketable products or services.

The problem is that corporations often lack the patience to nurture these ideas. Too often their focus is on immediate returns and if these are not seen, the project is quickly abandoned or put on a back burner.



The challenge is clear: companies need to find a way to nurture an innovative environment, one that embraces creative thinking and takes risks. Companies need to recognize that while they may have been innovative in the past, they cannot rely on their old ideas to stay ahead of the competition. They must look outside their four walls and seek new ideas. Only then will they be able to recapture their innovative spirit and stay ahead of the competition.  For an organization to truly become a leader in innovation, it needs to understand that new ideas require time and support for them to bear fruit. With patience and creative thinking, it is possible for any organization to foster meaningful innovation and stay ahead of the competition.