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Innovation Up Against the Wall

Most business leaders yearn to know the secret behind corporate innovation success. When ILO founder Peter Temes was—quite literally—pressed for this knowledge by a billionaire client, he gave it his best shot. The answer, he judged, was simple: lower the cost of failure.

Innovation Up Against the Wall

U+, in partnership with the ILO Institute, is excited to bring you highlights from ILO’s Weekly Virtual Gatherings. This week, ILO founder Peter Temes recounts how a run-in with a client helped him clarify the key quality that drives innovation within large organizations.

A young billionaire—his grandfather had started what was by then the third-largest media company in the US—pretty much pushed me against the wall in the VIP wine cave at a fabulous restaurant in Texas. “We’ve been paying you plenty to help us get really, really good at innovation. Now put it on a bumper-sticker for me. What's the answer to making a big company good at innovation?”

He waited. I hesitated. He said “Come on. Cut the crap. We already paid for this.”

I replied: “Lower the cost of failure.” And he kind of liked that, to his surprise—and mine. Lower the cost of failure. That actually is the answer, the number-one, highest-value best practice for innovation in large organizations.

Of all the large orgs we work with, those who are consistently better over time at launching new programs, products and plans—those who navigate change like champions and launch new businesses and business models that actually work—are no better than most each time they come up to bat. But they smartly, systematically lower the cost of failure in terms of time, money, brand and customer relationship, and political cost to staffers who sign on to programs that don’t work.

That’s how large organizations become great innovators.

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 $1 billion in value for Fortune 1000 companies. Check out U+ success stories here.

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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