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Avoid the “Silo Capture” Trap in Large-Org Innovation

For large organizations, innovation should be an open, experimental process that happens on many fronts. However, you can easily end up focusing instead on urgent short-term pursuits that don’t allow for learning and growth. Our partners at the ILO Institute recently discussed innovation silos and how they can surreptitiously harm your organization’s long-term growth prospects.

Avoid the “Silo Capture” Trap in Large-Org Innovation

U+, in partnership with the ILO Institute, is excited to bring you highlights from ILO’s Weekly Virtual Gatherings. In this Insight, we explore the allure, and danger, of creating innovation silos within a large firm.

It’s a classic trap for large-company leaders: you have a head of innovation, they’ve built a great team that does great work. Then, in a pinch, you pull them and their team from the scanning, testing, and connection functions of innovation, and put them in charge of the new, urgent process or product group. Suddenly you’re ahead of the competition instead of behind. You’re delivering on the coolest, newest stuff without the risk of bringing in outside experts as leaders—your head of innovation is already a proven team player, and their team is awesome. What’s not to love?

A large financial-services firm we worked with did exactly this. They had a top-notch head of innovation who was working on half a dozen new areas of potential growth for the firm, including mobile. The CEO woke up one day realizing his whole firm was behind on mobile, and he needed to have a better story to tell his board and Wall Street. So he took his head of innovation and made her the head of mobile. She knew the turf—she’d been testing mobile strategies, partners and tools for six months, as one slice of her portfolio. Now, she became the Chief Mobility Officer. Her team became the mobility team. And they had a great quarter and a solid year.

And then they found themselves behind on data analytics, behind on AI, and behind on augmented reality.

Why? Because they had lost the generative side of innovation—the smart, well-managed team focused on what’s coming next. Innovation had become trapped in the mobile silo, and the present stole from the future, as happens too often.

Far better: ensure the head of innovation is continuously hiring deputies who can roll from the innovation team, taking a modest part of that team with them, to captain new programs, projects, and functions as they mature.

The U+ Method can efficiently and effectively lead the development, implementation, and improvement of innovations in any sector. To date, we have used this method to bring 100+ products to market, creating over $2 billion in value for Fortune 1000 companies. Check out U+ success stories here.

Get 20 minutes with Sean, the Managing Partner of U+ Americas, to learn more about how U+ can help your company innovate successfully.

Launched in 2005, ILO is a membership organization for large companies, government agencies and not-for-profits, bringing senior executives leading innovation together for knowledge sharing and community building. ILO has completed more than 300 best-practice research reports, focusing on emerging challenges and opportunities. To learn more about ILO, membership benefits, and how to join, visit

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