Front End of Innovation Part 2

17 Jun 2016 by

This post also documents day 1 at FEI. It is a collection of the keynotes and breakout sessions that I attended. I found Alexa's research interesting and realised how we, as Indians, have always been aware of these sub cultures surrounding us. It would be great to integrate learnings from those into our projects.


Misfit Economy by Alexa Clay

Alexa Clay is culture hacker and the author of ‘Misfit Economy’. She defines these “misfits” as the little cog wheels that bring their deepest oddness into the company, question the whys of work and bring innovation to the table. Their defiance helps to bring the next wave of growth in the company. Her definition of misfits: small group of contrarians, rebels, activists, catalysts, radicals that shake the corporate machinery. Essentially these are people who question, are not okay with the present and have a strong urge to make a difference to the future. In her book, she cites numerous examples from the unorganised sector as misfit subcultures that can offer learning for corporate innovation teams. 

Misfit Economy is about “Understanding the trends in the fringes to know what will become mainstream"

Lessons from Misfits:

  1. Unlock the resources : Be a HUSTLER
  2. Find alternative methods : Be a HACKER
  3. Copy and remix: Be a COPY CAT
  4. Stimulate and incite others: Be a PROVOCATEUR- Destabilise culture, provoke alternative, question myths
  5. Don’t follow the rabbit hole: PIVOT

Constraint and frugality leads to hustle. It makes people identify, access and use resources that may otherwise be hidden, thus encouraging new ways of doing things. Con-artists create alternate realities, which is what innovation teams are about. Another interesting example of the same is LARPING- Live Action Role Playing. Larping makes people break away from their traditional ways of thinking. 

These subcultures within large organisations tend to be responsible for fresh thinking and perspectives on existing challenges. Studio5B is a team that questions and inspires, is a bunch of ‘rebels’ in the traditional corporate sense. 

Misfit website (

For Studio 5B: How about observing and studying the unorganised sector, the radicals in the systems, for our projects to identify new ways of doing things, trigger thoughts on possible solutions or hacks that are likely to succeed?

Three Box Solution by Vijay Govindarajan

Vijay’s latest book looks at planning the innovation efforts of a corporate organisation and addresses the need to balance incremental and disruptive thinking. He does so by proposing the 3 box solution:



Box 1 is called ‘Managing the Present’ and pertains to the Core Business. Here, companies need to continuously improve on their strength, work towards being no.1 in what they know how to do. This leads to linear growth through incremental innovation. He says that Box 1 is important to any company’s survival and it is important to allocate resources for managing the present. However, Vijay warns that a company can choose to stay in Box 1 if it is sure that there are going to be no non-linear changes in the world. he also says that Box 1 is not strategy.

Non linear shifts create non-traditional competitors and new consumers

Box 1 actions are to prepare for competition for the present and includes:

Operation Excellence, Performance Gap. Best Practice benchmarking.

Box 2 & 3= Strategy for Innovation includes:

Box 2 is called ‘Selectively Forget the Past’ and pertains to adjacencies. Here, the company begins to look at adjacent products, geographies and even consumers.

Box 3 is called ‘Create the Future’ and described entire new spaces where the company has never worked in before

A company needs to work in these 2 boxes in order to prepare for competition for the future, where non-linear changes are the norm. 

How many projects address the possibility gap? Box 2 and 3 are about creating next practices.

Role of an intent statement: VG asserts that it is very important for strategy to be capture by intent statements which are not the usual mission or vision statements. He says that intent statements need to be vivid, need to paint a picture and be visual. He uses he apollo programme’s intent statement by JFK to drive the point home. Intent statements are about directions and the bigger picture.


“Converting hypothesis into knowledge= failure"

“Planning for the future is meaningless but preparing for it is important."

“Future comes in daily doses.”

“Strategy is folding future back and not pushing present forward”.

“Performance is a function of our expectations"


Insights for Studio 5B: This strategy aligns with the way we’ve been looking at our projects:a accelerate the present and pull from the future. Knowing which project is in which box can be useful in further strategy design. Also we can speed up the process of studying the non-linear shifts and creating an intent statement for each of our projects.

Dare to Try-Intrapreneurship in Action at Pfizer

John Klick is apart of 13 member innovation team at Pfizer. He shared Pfizer's intrapreneurship model at a break out session and shared tips on how to embed and scale innovation across a global enterprise like Pfizer. The model allocated five years to accelerate creativity and thoughtful risk taking. 

Pfizer hosts a 3-day internal conference called Ex, by cleverly inviting those who with a risk taking attitude and those who genuinely want to create impact. In this conference people get to rapidly iterate and experiment on their ideas. They are also aligned to innovation champions who support them throughout the process.

Day 1: Working on transforming the intrapreneurs’ attitudes and behaviour

Day 2: Sharing the tools and having them use those

Day 3: Experimentation and real world challenges

Tools and behaviours used: Lean startup, Open innovation

Insights are used springboards for ideation and used to come up with critical assumptions to support the ideas.

Another initiative of the team is to encourage open innovation within the company. There’s an internal platform to to submit challenges. These challenges are then floated to people outside the company.

“Rapidly scale or Rapidly fail”

John’s team operates from the ideology to focus on the innovators and not the innovations.

They use the following methods to keep the intrapreneurs active and incentivised after the conference:

  • Monthly meet ups and calls
  • Social Media platform
  • Incentivised through awards, seats at various conferences

There are various takeaways here for the EDP programme and for Studio 5B’s role in creating a culture of innovation within DRL. The role of innovation champions is particularly interesting.