KP Reddy on The Culture of Innovation

For PMI Atlanta

February 28, 2018

 

What does innovation mean to you?

The best definition I’ve borrowed is that innovation is about creating abundance where there was once scarcity. If you look at the shared economy, that’s a perfect example. Technology freed up excess inventory to be leveraged by others. People had extra rooms, and AirBnB was born. People had underutilized cars, and Lyft was born.

 

How have you seen the culture of innovation evolve in recent years?

Big companies say “innovation, let’s do do that!” But they overlook how culture weighs into their ability to successfully innovate. The first thing corporate innovation teams do is build out cool office space and tell everyone to wear t-shirts to work–but that has nothing to do with innovation. To innovate, you need a passion for solving a problem.

 

Why have corporations struggled to innovate?

Unfortunately, in a corporate structure, risk is viewed as a detriment. If you take a big risk and fail, you’ll get fired. If you’re successful, there’s not a huge reward. Because of the incentive structure, you’re set up for failure.

 

What changes need to occur for corporate innovation to be successful?

It often takes an external voice to address the structural problem of innovating within a large company. To get perspective, you have to get outside of the building.

 

Who’s doing corporate innovation well?

Very few organizations. Google does it well because they’ve built a culture of failure. If you take a risk and fail, you get promoted, not fired. You’re celebrated for taking action. It’s those who just sit at the back of the room who get fired. You’re not punished for trying. It’s the opposite.

 

K.P. Reddy has more than twenty-five years of entrepreneurship experience. He has started, grown, and sold multiple successful startups, and he has been involved in both IPOs and strategic acquisitions. He has advised numerous firms on innovation, from Coca-Cola to UPS. K.P. lives in Atlanta, where he is the cofounder of The Combine, an organization that assists tech entrepreneurs and enterprises in converting promising ideas into high-growth companies.