Written by Brandon Yu I 8 min read

There's an undeniable force that is reshaping industries, redefining competition, and reimagining how we solve problems. That force is artificial intelligence (AI), and more specifically, Generative AI. 

Generative AI is not just a buzzword—it's a transformative technology that's shifting paradigms and creating new landscapes of opportunity.

What was once a field dominated by data-driven predictions and retroactive analysis, AI has evolved into a proactive generator, creating content, reimagining how we approach sustainability, and even innovating in ways previously thought exclusive to the human mind. 

By synthesizing vast amounts of information and understanding intricate patterns, Generative AI is now turning mere concepts into tangible realities, fostering an unprecedented era of innovation.

Undoubtedly, AI is shifting the way businesses innovate - and we’re incredibly excited about it.

The need for innovation for business resiliency

Currently, there is a rapid need to continue innovating even in this current economic climate. Several studies indicate that companies who are prioritizing innovation build resiliency in their business and also are seeing greater successes from this investment.

Innovation is a key catalyst in building business resilience, even in economic down markets like we are currently experiencing today. Building a culture of innovation that stems from all levels is equally important.

However, a Leadership IQ study states that only 20% of employees say their company always prefers people who are bold thinkers and only 8% of employees think that company managers are willing to risk failure for the sake of innovation.

Innovation is not one of the top priorities amongst the 4,000+ corporate managers surveyed (Leadership IQ)

It’s clear that there is a lot of room for improvement amongst fostering an innovation culture, and ultimately churning out profitable prototypes and MVPs for new business challenges.

In the age of AI, which is rapidly disrupting the way we do our jobs, adopting this is more important than ever. 

There are several effective methods for driving innovation

At Onova, we specialize in building innovation cultures that last, and converting that into 100s of tangible, profitable prototypes. We do the full end-to-end process, from problem definition to idea generation to idea incubation.

There are two main ways of driving innovation in your organization.

Most companies have an efficient centralized innovation structure

Centralized innovation structures refer to organizational frameworks where the responsibility for driving innovation is concentrated within a specific department or team. 

By centralizing the innovation process, organizations can allocate dedicated resources and expertise to tackle innovation challenges. This often manifests in dedicated innovation teams and departments, fitted with product managers to designers to developers, with expertise. They will have the freedom to challenge the status quo and build rapidly.

Centralization enables effective oversight and strategic alignment, allowing organizations to prioritize innovation initiatives and allocate resources accordingly. By consolidating innovation efforts, organizations can minimize redundancy, promote efficiency, and ensure that innovation aligns with broader business objectives.

Decentralized innovation leverages all levels of the organization

Decentralized innovation structures are gaining prominence as an effective way of driving innovation within organizations. In this approach, the responsibility for innovation is distributed across different teams or individuals throughout the organization. 

This decentralization allows for a more diverse and inclusive approach to innovation, as it taps into the collective intelligence and creativity of employees at all levels. By empowering individuals to contribute their ideas and insights, decentralized structures foster a culture of innovation, encouraging ownership and engagement from a broader range of stakeholders. 

Decentralized structures can foster a spirit of entrepreneurship, encouraging individuals to take risks, experiment with new approaches, and explore innovative solutions to problems. 

Onova supports this through our Innovation Sprint services (like what we did for McDonald’s), where we enable open innovation across the organization.

By leveraging the collective wisdom and expertise of its employees, decentralized innovation structures can unlock untapped potential, leading to a continuous flow of fresh ideas and transformative innovations.

Our end to end process for AI-based innovation

Helping your business adapt to inflections like AI is one of our essential core offerings. Below is our four step process on capturing the innovation potential of AI in your company.

Generative AI education and exposure

Our first step is to educate and expose all levels of your business to this new trend.

This involves "Art of the Possible" workshops, which aim to educate you and your team about the advancements and potential of Generative AI. During these workshops, participants are introduced to current trends and innovations through real-life case studies, demonstrating both the founder's and the investor's perspectives.

Moreover, these sessions include contributions from industry experts for added insight and depth. Founders may also take part in more informal, open-ended discussions, such as fireside chats or panel discussions. This multi-faceted approach allows for comprehensive understanding and generates productive dialogue on the opportunities presented by AI.

There are several resources and startups that you can refer to in order to get your business started.

person discussing while standing in front of a large screen in front of people inside dim-lighted room

Identifying relevant and practical generative AI use cases

The second step is the "Use Case/Challenge Identification" phase. In this stage, workshops are conducted to bridge the knowledge gap between the experts and the frontline staff within the client's organization.

These design sprints are facilitated by our expert team of founders and investors who guide participants through a series of exercises, designed to identify participants’ own pain points as well as those of their customers.

The goal is to encourage the participants to think critically about their business processes, their products or services, and the needs of their customers in the context of emerging AI technologies.

Once these pain points are identified, they are then transformed into relevant use cases for Generative AI. 

These use cases are essentially scenarios that describe a problem and illustrate how a solution, in this case, an AI-based solution, can address that problem effectively. The use cases are often framed around specific tasks, processes, or goals that Generative AI can be used to build or solve.

The end result of this stage is a detailed, focused set of use cases that not only are relevant to the business but also encapsulate the potential of AI in addressing the challenges identified. This step is essential in setting a clear direction for the subsequent stages of the AI implementation process.

printed sticky notes glued on board

Generative AI hackathons

We then take those use cases and challenges to build tangible prototypes - through Generative AI hackathons.

These are intensive, collaborative events that can engage thousands internal staff or external communities, sometimes with participation reaching into the thousands. The focus of these hackathons is to build innovative solutions that address the use cases or challenges identified in the previous step.

Recently, a partnership has been formed with Copy.ai to support these hackathons. Copy.ai is providing their cutting-edge tooling free of charge for participants, including their revolutionary new product, Text-to-Workflows. This tool allows for the automation of processes and workflows through natural language inputs, effectively transforming written instructions into actionable steps.

Notably, Copy.ai's tools are highly adaptable, capable of integrating with various AI models such as OpenAI's GPT-4, Google's PaLM, or Cohere. This ensures that participants can leverage some of the most advanced AI technologies on the market in their quest to address the identified challenges.

The hackathons are designed to not only inspire creativity and innovation but also to expose participants to the practical applications of Generative AI. They're a powerful testament to the potential of AI and serve as a launchpad for the development of real-world solutions. This step is critical in translating the theoretical use cases identified earlier into tangible products or services that could revolutionize the client's business.

people doing office works

Developing an in-house AI product squad

Following the conclusion of the Generative AI hackathons, our teams, composed of developers, designers, and project managers, step in to bring selected prototypes to life.

These squads work collaboratively with companies to refine, develop, and implement the prototypes or solutions that emerged from the hackathons. Their diverse skill sets enable them to take a holistic approach to development, addressing both technical and design considerations while also keeping an eye on project management and timely execution. During our recent client work with Google and Capgemini, our team created a virtual AI chatbot in 24 hours.

But our teams' roles extend beyond just the implementation phase. They also assist businesses in scaling these AI solutions across their entire organization. This could involve adapting the solution to different use cases within the company, integrating the solution with existing systems, or training staff on how to effectively utilize the new tools.

The final objective of this step is to ensure that the AI solution is not just a standalone project, but a part of the organization's broader operations and strategies. It’s about making AI work for the business at large, creating value at all levels and driving transformative change. This approach reinforces the entire process and underscores our commitment to helping businesses fully leverage the potential of Generative AI.

group of people using laptop computer

AI based innovation is key for future business growth

Embracing AI-driven innovation is not just an option for modern businesses.

It's an imperative for ensuring resilience in an increasingly dynamic and competitive landscape. Through the adoption of advanced AI technologies, businesses can anticipate disruptions, adapt to changes, and create opportunities for growth.

Regarding our approach to Generative AI innovation, our process is four-fold:

  1. We prioritize leveling the landscape through Generative AI education and exposure.
  2. Use case and challenge identification follows this, to specifically narrow down relevant and practical areas of focus
  3. Open innovation is then employed to crowdsource viable prototypes for these challenges
  4. Our AI products squad then takes the selected prototypes to life

AI-based innovation is the cornerstone of business resiliency. By understanding, identifying, creating, and implementing AI solutions, businesses can thrive amidst change, maintain competitive advantage, and fuel sustainable growth.

Interested in seeing how we can support you and your business in your innovation initiatives? Book an introductory call with Victor Li, Founder & CEO of Onova.
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