What’s the big idea? Why most innovations fail to scale and what to do about it?

Member news | November 11, 2020

Organizations across the board are hedging their bets on innovation to meet changing customer needs, improve operational performance, and build long-term value and growth. But although they are investing millions in R&D, innovation centers, and external partnerships, few seem able to generate reliable and consistent results. Since this inability to scale the innovation process is a primary barrier to realizing commercial goals, we wanted to find out what works and what doesn’t when scaling innovation. To these ends, in the latest report from the Capgemini Research Institute – What’s the Big Idea? Why most innovations fail to scale and what to do about it – we interviewed 40 executives from organizations around the world that have achieved scale and four eminent academics who focus on innovation in their research and training. Separately, we collaborated with MIT on corporate innovation in the digital age. The findings were clear and aligned with our experience on the front-lines of innovation.

Most companies - 81% of the MIT respondents - feel that their internal innovation capabilities fall short when it comes to digital innovations. That’s why so many companies are looking to source innovation from outside; they are desperate to access digital capabilities and applications — quickly.

But while external innovation sources are important, research shows that internal capabilities are essential. They help sustain competitive advantage, reduce complexity, and create a culture of systematic innovation. An external-only approach to innovation is doomed to fail as it doesn't solve for the people, the culture, or for the resilience of the company to endure and respond to pressures over time.

A balance must be struck: companies ought to embrace open innovation while also building their own capabilities. As the MIT research highlights: “Smart companies, we find, treat external sources of innovation not as a replacement for internal sources but as a way of broadening the portfolio. They are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary. In our survey, the companies that used the most external sources also used the most internal ones.”

When it comes to scaling innovation, the internal innovation capabilities become even more clear. New offerings impact the organization, its operations, and its people. Generally speaking, developing new products, services, and business models is a pointless (and potentially damaging) effort if it can’t be accomplished, ultimately, with profit. For large companies, this typically means doing so at scale, and harnessing the structures and efficiencies of the broader organization. Internal innovation capabilities can be thought of as the system that enables this realization of commercial objectives. 

At Capgemini Invent, we treat innovation as a real discipline. We bring together the critical knowledge, skills, and experience to help companies across all sectors unlock the power of innovation for growth, competitive advantage, and resilience in a complex world. We organize our efforts across 3 key questions:

  1. How should we think about the future and how should we think about our organization, culture, and technologies?
  2. How should we organize and operate to enable an ongoing, self-sustaining growth engine?
  3. How should we engage with a broader ecosystem and integrate innovations from outside?

We work with companies across all sectors and are true innovation partners. We build internal capabilities, design operating models, define strategies, and serve as an external partner that execute key, innovation initiatives that meet both commercial goals and customer needs.

This article has been provided by featured #OneForum2020 Speaker, Adam Rubin, Head of Innovation Enablement and Idea Development at Fahrenheit 212 (of our Silver Sponsor company, Capgemini). The FACC-NY thanks you for your participation and support in helping us bring this multi-day forum to our members.

Join us with Adam and his co-panelists for this anticipated discussion on November 18 at 8 AM EST:

"Intrapreneurial and Entrepreneurial Approaches to Scaling Innovation"


Capgemini is a global leader in consulting, digital transformation, technology, and engineering services. The Group is at the forefront of innovation to address the entire breadth of clients’ opportunities in the evolving world of cloud, digital and platforms. Building on its strong 50-year heritage and deep industry-specific expertise, Capgemini enables organizations to realize their business ambitions through an array of services from strategy to operations. A responsible and multicultural company of 265,000 people in nearly 50 countries, Capgemini’s purpose is to unleash human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future. With Altran, the Group reported 2019 combined global revenues of €17 billion.