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March 5, 2014

Come, Innovate, Disrupt

Posted by Sanjay Purohit (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:01 PM

Why did Facebook buy WhatsApp? [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocMyXXAYnVY]

Recently, members of a now defunct exclusive hacking club got together online to celebrate not a breakthrough break through, but the spectacular success of one of their own - Jan Koum and his US$ 19 billion Whatsapp deal with Facebook. This was the latest in a not very short list of successes of the club's alumni, which included at least one of Napster's founders, and those of Cloudmark, Servio, Duo Security and Immunet, among others.

If ever there was a metaphor for the power of disruptive-innovation this must be it. But urban-legend-status notwithstanding, the truth is that manifestations of disruptive innovation are few and far between - a corollary of the fact that only a tiny fraction of the young and restless who want to disrupt and innovate actually go out there and do so. The vast majority finds its way into the portals of the conventional workplace, nurturing that deep-seated desire all along.

Enterprises, large and small, which take such fresh blood on board, have a great opportunity to harness their latent talent for innovation. For that, they would need to provide an environment that allows for some experimentation and its often unpredictable consequences. They would have to create a culture that encourages free thinking and creativity, and give it expression by providing a platform for potential innovator-disruptors to collaborate, exchange ideas, and manipulate the tools of technology at their disposal. From that point of view, the timing couldn't be better. A wave of new, affordable technologies, like Cloud or 3D printing is giving a boost to innovation by enabling it with fearsome technical capability, at low cost and short time to market; it is up to the organizations to put these within reach of their innovator employees.

On the other hand, the task for talent managers would be to facilitate connections within and across the organization, support entrepreneurial and innovator roles responsible for implementing new ideas and concepts, and cater to both individual and team needs.

Those daunted by this challenge can draw inspiration from a company like eBay, which turned itself around by embracing disruptive innovation. eBay consciously acquired companies founded by young entrepreneurs and then gave them a chance to "innovate on scale". Enterprises looking to do the same must first guide their young employees to fix innovation goals, and then throw the organization's weight squarely behind them to allow experimentation without fear.

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