The Largest Enterprise Can Be the Best Start-Up
GE's Innovation Czar On Startup Qualities | Beth Comstock | WSJ Startup of the Year [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJRkSnMy-mQ]
Innovation is driving the marketplace like never before. So many of us have come to the conclusion that to build an effective organization, we must all think and act like a 20-something entrepreneur who works out of his parents' garage.
There's no denying that young innovators who are fresh out of college will deliver plenty of market-changing products in the next decade. But what about the rest of us? The lion's share of the global economy consists of people who work at large enterprises with distinct corporate cultures and well-defined hierarchies. Too often we're led to believe that we have to throw off the trappings of the large organization in order to innovate like a start-up.
It turns out that the opposite is true. That is, the young entrepreneur who's looking to build tomorrow's enterprise from a drafty garage should be taking cues from established organizations. That's because every effective (and, ultimately, successful) start-up is the result of the right mix of messy innovation and defined, disciplined business processes.
One of my favorite management experts is a lecturer at Harvard Business School who has rattled conventional wisdom for many years on what constitutes a start-up. Anyone can start a company. You file papers of incorporation with the appropriate government offices and - voila - you're off to the races. But success comes to those enterprises that can remain on the racetrack and keep ahead of the pack.
Those companies that endure have value propositions that come from hard-nosed strategy formation and the ability to work within financial constraints. One of the reasons the best start-ups come from inside large, global enterprises is that management facilitates the innovation process and allows ideas to incubate properly. Plus, there's nothing quite like an established infrastructure to keep everyone on an innovation journey focused.
One of the reasons I'm such a fan of the aforementioned management expert is that he's an advocate of reminding large enterprises that the best innovations can happen within their walls. In fact, that's one of his five recommendations for building an effective start-up. Look t the resources and talent in your current organization for the best ideas. They're probably closer than you think.
Infoscions know that a distinguishing element of our company is that its employees indeed think and act like a nimble start-up even though we do business around the globe. Part of our lasting success has been to redefine current markets and master the new ones that spring out of them. Our recent surveys on digital consumers and ideal stores validate our recipes for success. When an enterprise opens itself up to the expectations of its customer base, it's more adept at charting paths filled with new and exciting possibilities.
The other recommendations in the management primer to which I previously mentioned are just as illuminating. For starters, entrepreneurship is management. All too often, innovators operate their teams under the assumption that the product and the enterprise are one in the same. The product is vital to their mission, but their enterprise depends on the right management skills. They must hone those skills to the tasks at hand, and because the innovation disrupts the market, so too must their management techniques be framed the right way.
Another important element of a start-up is that before it churns out products or solutions it has to teach the people who founded it how to sustain the business. This might seem obvious, but think back to the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. How many entrepreneurs had great ideas only to grow their start-ups out of existence?
That brings up a related idea: accounting. It's important to measure your team's progress and have financial gauges in place. Innovation isn't just a creative process; it's quantitative. Without a system that analyzes and makes sense of your journey, you're leading your team through an uncharted wilderness. Doing so is prohibitively expensive - your teammates can't afford to be reckless.
Perhaps the most useful piece of thought leadership on innovation is that a start-up should be able to "pivot or persevere." That's another reason start-ups within established enterprises tend to do so well: They have systems and processes in place that instantly detect how customers react to their products and services. Successful entrepreneurship starts with a great idea, but it's sustained by the organization that institutes processes that align those ideas with customers.
Just remember: Even if you're a part of an august Fortune 500 company, you can operate like a nimble start-up. No garage is necessary!