The Gas Stations of Corporate Innovation

If you ask any engineer to turn an oil tanker into a speedboat, they will tell you that it won’t work.

You can either chop the tanker up or shrink it in size. But neither one will create a speedboat. It will only create a broken ship that no longer serves its purpose of stable, large scale work.

Yet it has been the mantra of corporate innovation that oil tankers need to turn into speedboats to survive to survive the technology revolution.

But speedboats aren’t perfect either. 

They are fast and agile but they also have a small tank and limited reach. Very often they need a stable partner for more impact and scale. If we look at the world this way, an opportunity starts to show up.

What would it look like, if every big company became the most generous gas station for the speedboats in their industry?

The best fuel those tankers hold on tap is access to customers and capital. The kind of fuel that is invaluable to every startup in order to survive and thrive.

What the tanker gets in return is access to solutions that will make their ship better over time. All exchanged through co-development, procurement, partnerships or investment. Whatever makes the fuel flow best.

The piece that is missing often at the start is people who know both worlds. People who know the tanker well and understand how to connect it best with those tiny boats.

The best way to teach a kid how to ride a bike is to give him one to play with and fail. 

The same applies to partnerships between big companies and startups. Give the corporate innovation sailors of the tanker their own speedboats and let them explore the world.

Once they fail with them, they will better understand what it means to be in charge of one.

That is where intrapreneurship programs come into play. They cannot turn the oil tanker into a speedboat, but they can teach employees how to ride one.

Once they have done that, they will know better how to handle a boat when it shows up next to the tanker and be of its best service.

Intrapreneurship is for training and Corporate Innovation is for partnerships.

Every ship has its purpose on the ocean.

Use yours best to its abilities.