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Analysis: ‘Diving Deep Into Corporate Innovation’

02. Sep 2021

What are the secrets of innovation unit leaders in large corporations? In this new analysis, 12 Danish and Japanese businesses share their experiences, good and bad, with successful innovation. We found eight unique insights on how to create lasting results. Here they are, so you can use them too.


In August 2021, we published ‘Diving Deep Into Corporate Innovation’, a new analysis exploring how leaders in big corporations lead and drive innovation units successfully. The analysis presents eight key insights that other leaders from any business can draw inspiration from and use in their work to innovate successfully and long term.

What we found

The insights all revolve around leadership and the ability for leaders of break-through innovation as well those leading to balance the old and the new.

The study suggests a 2×2 matrix of leadership. One axis deals with how the leader communicates. The other, how the leader approaches problem-solving.

The two axes give way to four leadership archetypes. The four archetypes demonstrate the broad skill set, and ability to step in and out of different leadership roles, that are necessary to succeed.


The eight key insights of the study are:

  1. Close it down
    Manage the life cycle of innovation units
  2. Keep moving to maximize your impact
    Balance your integration with core business
  3. Get the company on board
    Align your goals and vision with the whole organization
  4. Challenge the norm
    Fulfill company potential by uncovering & challenging barriers
  5. Engage in diverse functions & activities
    Let your unit take different roles
  6. Diversify the position of your innovation unit
    Be ready to take on many roles
  7. Mature ideas outside the organization
    Use external resources to grow better ideas
  8. Find someone to look out for your idea
    Engage key colleagues to own & implement ideas early on

What we explored

  • What determines the success or failure of in-house corporate innovation units? 
  • What are the leadership practices, key methodologies, and key challenges to overcome the status quo and move products, services, capabilities, structures, mindsets, and decision-making in larger companies?

Leading innovation teams?

This study is particularly relevant for you if you’re leading innovation teams or units. It’s also relevant if you’re a C-level manager looking for guidance in how to establish innovation units or if you want to improve the one you already lead.

What you get

The final output of the study is a visual report that explains the four leadership archetypes and eight key insights in depth.

Each of the eight insights comes with a Ready, set, go! section that provides readers with actionable ideas on how to apply the insight in their own work environment. The insights also include a narrative to add perspective, a Deep Dive with a model, and a more theoretical analysis.  

Finally, masterclasses, courses, and keynotes based on the study and insights will also be available.

How we did it

The data has been collected through peer-to-peer conversations between pairs of leaders of innovation departments in Danish and Japanese companies. Each participant has participated in two or three two-hour conversations, focusing on three main themes and an array of related questions.

Download the analysis here

The analysis was created in partnership with:

Study participants:

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