Is innovation dangerous for businesses?

Written by Thierry Pécoud, on 12 May 2022

The role and leadership of the IT department within the organization to innovate. If we consider that the business process will become increasingly digital in the majority of industries, meaning that the role of human intervention tends to decrease, it seems natural to think that the IT department should be at the heart of the strategy and evolution of processes.

Is innovation so essential today?

Given the growing complexity of the world and the challenges organizations face to evolve and adapt, innovation is likely to remain our only path to survival for a long time. Consensus on this point.

Do you think innovation is in your company's DNA?

Practically no IT director responded positively to this question. And all seem convinced that the presence of an "Innovation Officer" when there is one, is a sign to the contrary. Because innovation is above all a culture, a posture that should be carried by everyone, at all levels. It should be a natural reflex for improvement (of a process, an experience, etc.) and should permeate all functions of the company from strategy to manufacturing processes.

Can innovation be dangerous?

All the IT directors present have experienced (more or less recently) the following situation: the business unit or the CDO dazzles the Executive Committee with an innovation that proves practically impossible to deploy by the IT department within reasonable deadlines.

A source of frustration for everyone that tends to stigmatize our dear IT professionals. So how do we avoid this bias? Having more upstream collaboration across the entire innovation value chain is a priority, similar to what is done in a startup or in the industry.

Ultimately, is there not enough product innovation?

If we look in the rearview mirror (and this seems true both in insurance and banking), we observe that innovations are more focused on customer experience (neobanks, Alan, Luko, etc.) than on the product. However, this analysis can be nuanced by innovations in business models. For example, shifting from selling tires to selling kilometers changes nothing in the underlying product (the tire) but changes everything else.

Is digital complicated?

IT directors must show a lot of pedagogy to make their department's technological issues understood by CEOs and business unit leaders. Understanding the value proposition of the Cloud is simple, but understanding its impacts and implementation difficulties is more complicated. What about blockchain, the metaverse, or simply AI. This necessary pedagogy, made possible by continuous co-design work, will radically increase the value of innovation coming from the IT department.

Questions to explore

Do we have enough room for maneuver?

"No" is the natural response that emerges, quickly challenged and nuanced. Challenged by recalling Jugaad, made famous by Navi Radjou in his eponymous bestseller, and consisting of solving complex problems using limited resources. The author proves by example that constraint is a tremendous accelerator of creativity.

Nuanced as well, because it all depends on the structure, size, and culture. In the end, margins for maneuver always exist, it's just a matter of finding them.

Are the problems the same in services and in industry?

It's difficult to answer this question as the role of the IT department in industry is peculiar and much more distant from the business units than its counterpart in banking or insurance.

Should the IT director become a CEO?

Two opinions clash. The first, favorable to "each in their own role" in the team, argues that running the company is not the expertise or vocation of the IT director. The other insists that digital issues are now present at all levels of the company and that it is indeed the role of the IT director to understand the business units they serve. We observe a lot of evolution in this direction, with IT directors becoming CEOs.

Does innovation cost more than it brings in?

Participants highlight that innovation consumes budgets that are sometimes "gargantuan" for sometimes mediocre results. Where old calculation chains written in old languages ​​work perfectly without ever breaking down. It's difficult to counter this factual argument. However, it can be nuanced by observing that the majority of the top ten market capitalizations in the world come from the digital world. And few are the artists who create a perfect work of art on the first attempt ...

What are the very innovative companies that come to mind spontaneously?

  • Valeo (autonomous driving)
  • Amazon (streamlining processes)
  • Apple (everything)
  • L'Oreal (innovative factories)
  • Luko (transparent customer journey)
  • Stripe (simple payment)
  • Space X (rocket reusability)
  • Tesla (technology)
  • Netflix (usage and management

No French companies .... Why, in your opinion?


In the end, it is the organization and its verticality that limits the desire and ability to collaborate, and thus impoverishes the innovation capacity of the company and the IT department. Methods exist (design, lean startup, agility, etc.), and allow, on a project scale, to overcome this verticality but are still difficult to deploy throughout the organization.