Why this twice-acquired entrepreneur says an innovation lab is a terrible idea if you actually want innovation (and what he does instead)
In a fast-paced world of change, many companies don’t know how to keep up or worry new innovations will push them out of business. In response, companies big and small created the idea of the innovation lab – a sandbox environment where brilliant minds can test new ideas that will, if successful, integrate into the core business offering. But that’s not a good idea if you actually want innovation, according to one entrepreneur that works with companies on innovation projects.
Paul Crowe’s company Intersect, formerly BNotions, got acquired twice. Along the way, Crow learned a thing or two about innovation. Symbility Solutions acquired his small development shop. CoreLogic then acquired Symbility and Intersect. Each time, Intersect retained some independence with clients but also became a center-of-excellence for the acquirer. Now, two acquisitions later and scaling Intersect’s innovation strategy, Crowe is convinced that creating an innovation lab – whether using a hired group of people or an acquired company’s employees – is a horrible idea if you actually want to create innovation.
The BNotions to Intersect story
Intersect started through division. BNotions, the initial company that became Intersect, spun out a startup that went on to raise some capital. Some partners from BNotions went to that startup while others, Crowe included, stayed focused on the services business BNotions had built up.
“With that kind of division of the leadership team, there was a good opportunity to put the business up for sale and sell it,” said Crowe. “We were looking for someone who valued us.”
The business sold in 2015 to Symbility, an insurance services company, that “very much needed” the services BNotions was offering. The company became Intersect, maintained some client autonomy, but also added Symbility as an internal client. This experience showed Crowe how to innovate publicly while building for an internal client, lessons that he would carry with him when he later founded the Intrapreneur Alliance.
CoreLogic, a global data analytics company, acquired Symbility in late 2018. Intersect maintained the same independence it had within the Symbility umbrella, but now counts CoreLogic as an internal client.