AI is killing Corporate Innovation.
Last Friday, the brilliant minds of Scott Kirsner, Rita McGrath, and Alex Osterwalder (plus a few guest stars like me, no big deal) gathered to debate the truth of this statement.
Honestly, it was one of the smartest and most thoughtful debates on AI that I’ve heard (biased but right, as my husband would say), and you should definitely listen to the whole thing.
But if you don’t have time for the deep dive over your morning coffee, then here are the highlights (in my humble opinion)
Why this debate is important
Every quarter, InnoLead fields a survey to understand the issues and challenges facing corporate innovators. The results from their Q2 survey and anecdotal follow-on conversations were eye-opening:
- Resources are shifting from Innovation to AI: 61.5% of companies are increasing the resources allocated to AI, while 63.9% of companies are maintaining or decreasing their innovation investments
- IT is more likely to own AI than innovation: 61.5% of companies put IT in charge of exploring potential AI use cases, compared to 53.9% of Innovation departments (percentages sum to greater than 0 because multiple departments may have responsibility)
- Innovation departments are becoming AI departments. In fact, some former VPs and Directors of Innovation have been retitled to VPs or Directors of AI
So when Scott asked if AI was killing Corporate Innovation, the data said YES.
The people said NO.
What’s killing corporate innovation isn’t technology. It’s leadership.
Alex Osterwalder didn’t pull his punches and delivered a truth bomb right at the start. Like all the innovation tools and technologies that came before, the impact of AI on innovation isn’t about the technology itself—it’s about the leaders driving it.
If executives take the time to understand AI as a tool that enables successful outcomes and accelerates the accomplishment of key strategies, then there is no reason for it to threaten, let alone supplant, innovation.
But if they treat it like a shiny new toy or a silver bullet to solve all their growth needs, then it’s just “innovation theater” all over again.
AI is an Inflection Point that leaders need to approach strategically
As Rita wrote in her book Seeing Around Corners, an inflection point has a 10x impact on business, for example, 10x cheaper, 10x faster, or 10x easier. The emergence and large-scale adoption of AI is, without doubt, an inflection point for business.
Just like the internet and Netscape shook things up and changed the game, AI has the power to do the same—maybe even more. But, to Osterwalder’s point, leaders need to recognize AI as a strategic inflection point and proceed accordingly.
Leaders don’t need to have it all figured out yet, but they need a plan, and that’s where we come in.
This inflection point is our time to shine
From what I’ve seen, AI isn’t killing corporate innovation. It’s creating the biggest corporate innovation opportunity in decades. But it’s up to us, as corporate innovators, to seize the moment.
Unlike our colleagues in the core business, we are comfortable navigating ambiguity and uncertainty. We have experience creating order from what seems like chaos and using innovation to grow today’s business and create tomorrow’s.
We can do this because we’ve done it before. It’s exactly what we do,
AI is not a problem. It’s an opportunity. But only if we make it one.
AI is not the end of corporate innovation —it’s a tool, a powerful one at that.
As corporate innovators, we have the skills and knowledge required to steer businesses through uncertainty and drive meaningful change. So, let’s embrace AI strategically and unlock its full potential.
The path forward may not always be crystal clear, but that’s what makes it exciting. So, let’s seize the moment, navigate the chaos, and embrace AI as the innovation accelerant that it is.