Innovating In Big Companies

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Innovating In Big Companies

What’s The Big Idea?

Strategic entrepreneurialism is an attribute as sought after today by global CEOs as it is by start-ups. It’s become an essential tactic for business survival, but despite the necessity, not all organisations are very effective at it. Think about it: how many strategy meetings have you attended with like-minded and interested parties, only to find that nothing materialises after that contact?


Why Intrapreneurship Fails

The research shows that intrapreneurship (entrepreneurship within an existing company) attempts peter out most of the time. According to Beth Altringer, who’s done the research at Harvard, intrapreneurship projects fail 70 to 90% of the time.

The difficulty in a big company, is being able to accumulate all the necessary ingredients together: the ideas and the buy-in from the people who are going to execute on the idea. Firstly, getting that buy-in in an existing company can be challenging simply by virtue of the fact that you’re introducing something new. Secondly, the people who can perform the work generally don’t have the time to contribute to developing new ideas.


How We’ve Tried To Save Intrapreneurship

In the past, companies have typically addressed the need for intrapreneurship through Research & Development (R&) Departments. There are still many companies operating like this today. Since the 90’s it has become more popular for businesses to outsource their intrapreneurship projects to innovation consultancies.

Outsourcing to innovation consultancies usually follows the process of market analyses, idea generation and prototype development. Organisations adapt the consultancy’s recommendations and take them to market. Innovation companies have their own methodologies, which may include analytical models, human centred design or Lean start-up.

Sure, not every client-innovation consultancy relationship has a happy ending, but the research also indicates that the value offered by these types of engagements can help organisations improve their chances of succeeding at intrapreneurship projects eclipse the 10 – 30% success rate.


A Novel Take On Innovation

Let’s take a look at the strategy employed by the Chief Marketing Officer at Kuoni, a travel services company. He was of the opinion that achieving different results required different behaviour, and so he considered a number of reputable consultancies for a major strategy project.

He did set some rules for the engagement. The consultancy had to be receptive of different methods. They also had to accept certain restrictions: a short turn-around and a tight budget. They had to generate and analyse results quickly, so that Kuoni could make heir decisions efficiently.

The consultancy he chose had a history of connecting global entrepreneurs with start-ups. And, even though the consultancy managed to build an entrepreneur database that spanned 35 countries, they found a huge demand from organisations seeking input on how they could become more entrepreneurial. And, rather than introducing multi-talented designers into big companies, they started introducing entrepreneurs with more diverse skill sets.


You Don’t Have Time Or Resources For This? Are You Sure?

Big organisations may claim to be tight on resources but when entrepreneurs have seen what they’ve got available, they can’t believe it. Entrepreneurs realise just how much big companies do have going for them.

In start-ups, entrepreneurs have to do as much as they can with as little resource as possible, and it’s this kind of constraint that enables them to innovate. They focus on their strengths and continue to experiment until they find new opportunities.


Diversity of ideas

One of the major reasons this approach has been successful is that the entrepreneurs do not all come from the same organisation. The company can select the skills they need for the project and it’s highly likely that team members will have worked together before.


Accelerating decision-making 

Client and entrepreneurial teams work together to create on-site prototypes, in a workshop format. Prototypes can be tested and analysed for up to six weeks so that good and bad ideas can be distinguished.

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