Innovation and Change

Telefónica: 95 Years of Innovation

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It was another hot sunny day in Madrid. Miguel Arias was sitting in his office. On the Global Entrepreneurship Director's desk was a list of questions to address during an interview that afternoon. It had been a long road to open innovation in Telefónica, characterized by the many challenges the company faced: innovation in products, the rise of new competitors in new economies; as well as by the many goals reached, especially in the last ten years. Arias was celebrating his second anniversary at Telefónica, but nine years had passed since the launch of Wayra, Telefónica's corporate startup accelerator that had represented a pioneer initiative in enabling the relation between startups and corporations, in addition to transforming the corporate culture. The most recent director of the innovation unit had been Gonzalo Martín-Villa, Telefónica's Chief Innovation Officer, who had held the post until end of 2019. All in all, Telefónica could boast of almost 95 years of innovation history. Perseverance, adaptability and "thinking outside the box" had been the keys to success, even when the stock markets were skeptical about the future of telecommunications. In November 2019, a comprehensive reorganization of the Telefónica Group was announced as well as the creation of new affiliates: Telefónica Tech, Telefónica Infra and Telefónica Hispam. The new organization had consequences in terms of roles and unit management. Until then, the telecom firm had been an innovation pioneer, with global coverage and a strong reputation. What would the consequences be in terms of investment policies and partnership opportunities? How could the firm continue to adapt to the innovation changes and enhance business with startups? At this stage, the company had two goals: to change internal culture and to focus on successful collaborations and promising projects. How could both be achieved?
Bibliographic citation: PRATS M. J., J., BRIA, V. E. (2021). Telefónica: 95 Years of Innovation. IESE, E-217-E.
Date: 01/02/2021
Author(s): Julia Prats; Vittoria Emanuela Bria
Document type: Case
Department: Entrepreneurship
Sector: Telecommunications (Telephone, TV, Cable...); Telecommunications (Telephone, TV, Cable...)
Languages: English
Geographic area: Spain
Learning objective The case describes the complete innovation ecosystem of a large corporation, and explains in detail some of the open innovation initiatives. The discussion will be build around the next step forward.