From Koch Industries’ beginnings to its continuous innovations, the vision of driving new ideas and processes has remained constant.
That approach—a long-running commitment to collaboration, innovation and experimentation with subject matter experts inside and outside Koch—has formalized as the Koch Labs concept, the Wichita Business Journal reports. In action, it's an "entrepreneurial accelerator for Koch companies and companies it invests in." As "a formalized engine for driving new ideas and processes at the company," Koch Labs propelled Koch Fertilizer to pilot Percepto’s autonomous drone inspections, John Zink Hamworthy Combustion and Georgia-Pacific to apply Desktop Metal’s 3D printing technology, and Koch Global Services to upgrade enterprise-wide cloud networking infrastructure with Alkira. In recent years, Koch has invested $30 billion in technology-related investments.
"Thinking of Koch as a laboratory opens the door to one of the largest metaphorical sandboxes on the planet,” Koch Investments Group CEO Steve Feilmeier told WBJ. “Koch’s operations employ more than 120,000 people across 70 countries, so if you have an idea or technology that’s solving a problem, we’re probably experiencing that problem somewhere.”
Subject matter experts inside and outside the company, Steve said, are key to identifying and developing transformational ideas. Koch Labs "calls for the sharing of knowledge, which is essential for scientific and social innovation and progress," Charles Koch said in a newsletter to Koch employees. “It is why we try to continually build knowledge networks of all kinds within the company and throughout the world.”
“Essentially, this capability allows us to provide our external partners with support beyond capital investment by connecting them to Koch’s global scale as a potential customer, capability provider, technology validator or any other aspect that might create mutual benefit for both parties,” Steve told the WBJ. “Koch’s scale and breadth of operations can create significant value beyond just writing a check.”
Josh Oeding, a former Koch employee and Wichita entrepreneur who founded NXTUS, said, “By perpetually challenging the status quo, being willing to make significant changes, and working to stay true to its vision and deliver real value for its customers, Koch works to keep key elements of an entrepreneur’s mindset at its core, despite its size and long history.”
Steve said he believes the biggest lesson outside entrepreneurs can learn from Koch Labs is one of the core business philosophies at Koch: Creating mutual benefit.
"That's what I would say is the biggest lesson, and I see as fundamental to business as a whole," he says. "Focus on creating value for others, and success will follow."
Learn more about the Koch Labs concept and its applications.