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Corporate Entrepreneur Community discovers innovation gold (and great cuisine) in Peru!

It goes without saying, we all know that Silicon Valley is the heart of innovation, not just in the the US but probably in the entire entire world.. Everyone speaks about the next Silicon Valley and where innovation is springing up, which of course is a global phenomena and there are many great innovation stories from almost anywhere.

That said, I’m not sure how many of us, including myself or Eric Ries have put the country of Peru or the firm Intercorp on the list as one of the top innovators! So time to adjust your thinking.

What is the “CEC”?

For those of you who don’t know the Corporate Entrepreneur Community(or CEC )is a private peer-to-peer collaboration among legacy corporations really committed to disruptive innovation and transforming themselves.

Our membership includes some of the world’s premier Fortune 500 Companies. We meet three or four times a year at our member locations doing deep dives and helping each other advance and accelerate our efforts.

Why would the CEC visit Peru?

In 2018, I was surprised by a phone call from one of the Chief Innovation architects at Intercorp, perhaps Peru’s largest organization and probably one of the least known of the large global conglomerates. Well, fast forward and the Corporate Entrepreneur Community recently visited Intercorp headquarters in Lima, Peru we got some fantastic and unexpected learning in one of the least expected places to be a hotbed of innovation.

So what is Intercorp and what on earth was so amazing about the innovation we saw?

So Intercorp is one of the top corporations in Latin America. I have to admit that being someone who’s grown up in global businesses, I was very unfamiliar with them. They have 30+ operating companies in 5 divisions. Their core business is Interbank the number two bank in Peru,and their holdings spread from banking to retail, including malls, to drug store chains and cinemas to education and health care.

Oh by the way, in education they operate and they have actually built over 50 primary and secondary schools. Their mission is dedicated to making Peru the best place in Latin America to raise a family. How’s that for a great mission statement!

Steve’s Three Innovation Shockers

Shocker #1 Those of us who live in this corporate innovation space are always turning to Silicon Valley, and we’re turning to New York, and we’re turning to certain places in Asia or Europe. But I challenge you to see how many of you are turning to Latin America?

The folks at Intercorp were adamant that they not only wanted to host our Corporate Entrepreneur Community meeting this spring, but that they would make us proud and amazed. And boy did they did they deliver. So for now on, I am looking for corporate led innovation in unexpected places and I hope you will too!

The Innovation Lesson #1 is…… don’t look for innovation in all the same places because there’s a lot out there in unexpected places!

Shocker #2  I saw at Intercorp how effective an Innovation Lab can be. They actually bought and converted a house in a middle income neighborhood, not very far from their gleaming 20 story corporate office office tower. A picture of the original family is easy to find.

You can see the corporate headquarters from their “La Victoria Lab”. La Victoria is a neighborhood middle class neighborhood in Peru. What they have now is a dedicated, vibrant innovation lab that helps coordinate and launch innovation efforts across all the different businesses. It’s positively buzzing with activity from banking to retail to drugstore chains to healthcare. Just an amazing collection of individuals and skills. They are now branding their efforts as “Beacon Works”.  I love it, especially having led the creation of FastWorks at General Electric as Executive Director of Global Innovation.

I have seen many different types of innovation labs and I would say that they are usually dedicated to specific projects but what I loved about La Victoria labs is that they will be the first ones to tell you their mission is to bring innovation into Intercorp ……now what that means is what they need to figure out, and it’s what they had been figuring out for three years.

One great example is their Innovation Fest. They invite 3000 people for a day and a half to come visit all the amazing innovation ideas across the Intercorp enterprise. Now, myself and the corporate members in attendance were shocked to learn that the 3000 attendees were not from the outside world. Let’s say folks like us wanted to go see innovation ……of the 3000 attendees these were entirely from within the Intercorp Corporation, plus of course many expert guests from the global innovation community.

In other words, they’re getting that vast middle manager level of people —where those of us who work in corporate innovation know innovations often go to die. Eric Ries likes to talk about a U-Shaped Funnel for innovation. U-Shape being the folks on the ground are highly attuned to both the need for innovation and highly motivated to go deliver. The top execs at the other end of the U, are very, very committed to innovation too. They See the vision, they see the need and are extremely excited to go make this happen. So they’re all committed to it.

Well, who is not committed to innovation?

Well, down at the bottom of this U is usually the middle manager world. So when they talk about that position, they’re going to bring in some top innovation leaders in the world. They can talk workshops that illustrate everything they’re working on from apps to new products, to new businesses. It’s an amazing, amazing event.

In fact, I was also surprised to learn that Beth Comstock, my former boss and Vice Chair of GE is going to be one of their featured speakers this year. Amazing that they’re going to be doing this. And something I hope can spread as a fantastic idea.

Try Innovation Fest within your own corporation.

Well, what was Shocker #3? Hint: YUM!

I’m not sure how many of you spend time exploring Peruvian cuisine, but boy, let me tell you ……Did we enjoy every type of seafood, every type of pork, every type of beef, every type of lamb? Oh, yes!! They had vegetarian and vegan options. We had a spectacular time.

From the first luncheon at a local restaurant, to the dinners we went to at some of Peru’s top restaurants, to the catered lunches where we had some ceviche. It was just  an incredible assortment of delicious. food. I have to tell you am totally hooked on Peruvian cuisine. Now that I’m back in my home base in the US I can assure you I will be searching out Peruvian cuisine wherever I can.

I’ve already got a Peruvian restaurant I’m trying out this weekend.

Why was the CEC-Intercorp meeting a total (success) shocker?

So to go back to my innovation shocker starting point, innovation can turn up in the most amazing places.

For those who believed that our eyes are open, I challenge you to really keep your eyes open. Look for opportunities, look for learning any place you can.

The biggest of thanks to our Intercorp teammates, who invited us down for this incredible three day journey,completed with tours  in their wonderful country and illustrating what an amazing innovation culture that they are developing..

I want to encourage all corporate entrepreneurs wherever you are come and learn more about what we’re doing. Share your stories. We’d love to hear your successes and I hope to be talking to you again soon.

In fact, our next Corporate Entrepreneur Community will be this July in NYC.  We’d love to have some more of you join us!

Thanks for reading and we’ll be in touch soon.

Steve Liguori.

To learn more about the Corporate Entrepreneur Community, please contact us HERE.