As a large company, staying competitive is often a top priority that’s increasingly more difficult to achieve.

Rapid technology advancements have turned local markets into global opportunities. Market-leading corporations are now being displaced by forward-thinking startups that have the flexibility to try something new, test it, and pivot if their idea doesn’t work out.

It has never been more important for corporations to embrace innovation than it is in today’s competitive landscape. Author of The Lean Startup and entrepreneurship expert, Eric Ries says, “a company’s only sustainable path to long-term economic growth is to build an ‘innovation factory.’”

So, what is corporate innovation and why should it matter to your organization?

Corporate innovation is when large companies create an environment where they can be innovative and agile like a small startup.

At Volta, we work with corporate partners to help them keep up with the accelerated pace of business in today’s technology-driven world. Through our Innovation Outposts, Volta provides a space for large companies to operate like lean startups. Volta’s Innovation Outposts help businesses use startup methodologies to identify problems and quickly prototype new solutions without the corporate red tape.

According to Chris Crowell, Vice President of Corporate Innovation at Volta, companies should look to implement innovative methods and processes in all areas of their business. But to do so successfully, they should aim to solve complex business problems by innovating from the outside in. We sat down with Chris to ask him a few questions about why innovation is key to growth for large organizations.

Why should corporations care about innovation?

Innovation today is imperative – you have to innovate because you are competing in a global economy. Even businesses that were traditionally local in nature – like newspapers, hotels or taxis – are being disrupted by platforms that are not bound by the constraints of a local market. If your business is not continually learning, adapting and improving the customer experience, you will be left behind.

How can you tell if a business is ready to innovate?

The are a number of questions that companies should ask themselves when thinking about innovation. I wrote a blog post that covers 10 questions to consider while accessing how ready your organization is to innovate. The main things to think about are: how your business understands and adopts technology, and whether your company culture encourages ideas to be shared, tested and learned from.

How will large companies play a role in developing Halifax’s innovation district?

Co-locating with startups and entrepreneurs has huge benefits for everyone. Startups get earlier exposure to real business challenges and opportunities. Larger organizations connect with top talent and can identify startups developing solutions to their business challenges or market opportunities.

Having large organizations – both private and public sector – active in an innovation ecosystem is a vital step for the growth and maturation of that ecosystem. We saw how Communitech and Waterloo went to a whole new level when corporate outposts were established. We see the opportunity for Halifax to benefit in the same way.

How can large organizations benefit from Corporate Innovation Outposts?

The real benefit of a Corporate Innovation Outpost is that it allows the corporation to create a startup-like environment where they can replicate the best practices of smaller, nimble startups.  Many internal innovation journeys don’t deliver the results the corporation is looking for – they get bogged down by internal politics, processes and policies. The corporate innovation outpost is not encumbered by these things.  

Volta’s Outposts are based on a proven best-in-class model used by Communitech in Waterloo. Both there and here at Volta, we are seeing partners developing more new products or services faster. We also see positive impacts on culture and relationships being developed with high quality strategic talent.

Why should companies consider an Innovation Outpost at Volta?

Volta’s Innovation Outposts are an ideal opportunity for companies looking to implement innovative ideas because we’re located in a place and community that are attractive to large corporations. The “Volta Advantage” includes having access to top talent – Nova Scotia has 30,000 university students, and Volta is directly connected to the student community and physically located next to Dalhousie University; engaging in skill development activities, such as mentoring, lunch and learns, executive training; and leveraging innovation ecosystems beyond the region to engage expertise and talent tailored to the outpost’s mandate.

Volta is a key partner in building an ‘Innovation District’ in Halifax. Companies will soon have a ‘campus’ to centre their activities and radiate benefits throughout the Atlantic Region.

Interested in learning more about Corporate Innovation Outposts at Volta? Contact Chris here.

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