I wanted to write this book aimed at the widest possible audience, as a natural extension of my personal doctoral research conducted from 2013 to 2017. In this book, I will try to make accessible the "whys" and "hows", the fruits of the observations, analyses and interpretations I have made throughout this personal research, so as to somewhat raise consciousness of the phenomenon of the "corporate incubator". For ease of writing, corporate incubation of start-ups will from now on be referred to by the abbreviation "CI". The notions of managerial innovation, as well as open innovation - which will also be mentioned - will be referred to as "MI" and "OI" respectively.
To recognize that this story began several years ago, I might have entitled it Once Upon A Time There Was Corporate Incubation , but I preferred the title: Open Innovation: The Corporate Incubator. This sober title reflects my desire to understand OI by describing the reality of CI. I do not want to discuss the subject, as is so often done in the press: a subject for hype, where the communication teams of large groups provide many people to explain to us how it is "cool", "useful" and "highly strategic" to work with start-ups within large groups. Although we cannot deny these aspects, the reality is that corporate incubation is far from being a fairy tale or a gently flowing stream for those who are in charge of this kind of set-up. Actors in corporate incubation will enact a process of uptake and transformation of products or services originating from start-ups, by deploying a particular know-how based on multiple interactions and trying to blaze a trail in the specific context of the industrial processes of large groups. To properly carry out this task, CI teams will demonstrate strong managerial resilience 1 when faced with internal actors in the large group.
The purpose of the book, as you will realize, refers to my own experience only to decode what I see and what I hear. This is an important point, because the goal is not to project myself into the reality of what I see and what I hear, but in fact to decode it, in order to better understand the reality of the other, and doubtless in turn to better understand my own reality.
The mysteries of CI
In the wider sense, CI is a managerial innovation 2 which, as I will show, is complex in that it mobilizes numerous internal actors in a large group and may "consume" those who are responsible for it. I use the term "consume", at the risk of objections that the term is too strong. The approach demands a lot of energy and skill on the part of leaders. These latter must in fact open the minds of actors such as managers and collaborators towards new practices. This entails re-inventing the fabric of innovation, in fact creating a whole new setting, in the context of large groups as firms where the context for action is necessarily bureaucratic with little appetite for risk-taking. Start-ups are symbols of risks and uncertainties. CI may risk being perceived by some internal actors within large groups as a Trojan horse . In fact, CI brings start-ups into the citadel of the large group, thus disturbing the tranquility of its inhabitants. The citadel within its high walls is in fact a place which has accumulated the spoils of war over long years. The paradox is that it is still these same large groups who have wanted this to happen, for whatever visible or invisible reasons.
Top and middle managers and collaborators, although realizing the urgent need to adapt to the changes forced on us by digital technology, are however not natural facilitators and sometimes, unwittingly, act as brakes on conversion and mobilization. Paradigm shifts in work are scary, and this is nothing new. The awareness that the traditional firm and its business model are besieged by a myriad of innovating st