What 10 years in Corporate Innovation Taught Me

Innovation Strategy
Product & Service Development

I consider all of you reading this as part of my team, even if I haven’t “officially” met you. For that, I am grateful. Being in such amazing company for the past 10 years has pushed me to grow in every way; constantly experimenting on myself as a prototype. So I wanted to share with you that I have transitioned out of Peer Insight; this Natalie-prototype is moving on to the next test. My next professional adventure is TBD, for now pausing and reflecting.

I felt comfortable leaving because of the tremendous growth, team and potential of Peer Insight. I wanted to build a firm where I would one day feel like I wouldn’t be able to get a job there – that time has come. By the way – welcome to the Peer Insight team, Brit & Jack!

My team knows I love a good Top 10 list, so from my 10 years, here’s what I’ve come to believe are the top 10 levers of innovation and business building. Lever meaning it’s not neutral; these factors can either propel you forward or backwards quickly.

1. Diversify Expertise

For decades, industry expertise has been worshipped, and, for many problems and roles, it’s very important. But for creating something new, expertise should always be combined with a variety of viewpoints. New ventures require an expertise in how to make the unknown → known.

2. Test & Iterate

In today’s world, master this skillset and you win. Simple advice, but the hardest on this list to execute because every incentive, process & tool in your BigCo runs counter to this mindset & behavior.

3. Protect Small Teams

‘Innovation theater’ includes inviting everyone to see the venture being made. It’s distracting, counter-productive and often harmful to have too many folks involved. Focus and intentionality is key, as is true for every part of your business.

4. Build Polymath Teams

Diversity matters; in background, perspective, personality type, skillsets, passions. A homogenous team sees the new venture through the same lens, which means you’ll miss catching a key customer insight, or a key to unlocking the business model, or pulling on a data thread that shows the next pivot.

5. Connect to Strategy

In a BigCo, if your new venture isn’t tied to what your organization wants to be in the next 3 years, it won’t see the light of day. This assumes you have a good strategy – one that enables attention and money to be directed to just a few problems the BigCo is attempting to solve.

6. Stay Low-Fi

Got a great concept? Everyone is probably asking to “see it.” Resist the urge to spend $$ & time on development, to build it. Instead, spend those precious resources on running a great in-market experiment with a no/low-code prototype.

7. Ask Why

Ask this always; your data should always be telling you the what and the why. Anyone can know the what, you’ll outperform your competition (& yourselves) with the why.

8. Define Failure

Not running a test, not asking the right question, not listening, not collecting the data – these are failures. Your idea is not a unit of measure, upon which to gauge success or failure. Failure is moving into the unknown without executing a plan to test your hypothesis (idea); failure is not de-risking, it’s pretending you can predict the future.

9. Obsess Over Your Customers

Repeatedly ensure that you are gathering and listening to data from your customer. Over and over. “What problem am I solving?” and “why does someone want this?” is how you should start every day as a business builder.

10. Stay Curious

Learn about other problem-solvers in the world, across every sector. Analogies are great little cheat sheets to thinking differently.

In gratitude for all you’ve taught me,

Natalie Foley


Natalie Foley

Former CEO

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