These days there is a lot of emphasis on entrepreneurship and start-ups. Intrepreneurial activities, on the other hand, are mostly off the radar of bloggers and authors. As I stated in an earlier post, I believe large organizations can have an innovative advantage if they know how to use it. And, it is a big “if”! The secret sauce is in the organization’s culture. When the culture is open to change, the infusion of innovation can be done publicly and quickly. Otherwise, a more controlled but still transparent infusion is the way to go. Either way, the main ingredients of this secret sauce are the same:
It all starts and dies with the leaders. We need a flag-bearer, a visionary, a committed person who can assemble, motivate and support the cast of characters that will join and leave along the way. The leader needs to be behind the initiative because of belief and commitment, not for personal benefits. This is usually where most large organization initiatives fail. It is hard to find that person who wants to do whatever it takes out of pure commitment to the cause. This feature exists in entrepreneurs and founders. They put their heart and soul into what they believe. That is hardly the case in larger organizations, where many political forces are at play. An innovation leader in a large organization has more responsibility on their shoulders than an entrepreneur does. The job of an innovation leader is roughly a combination of those of an entrepreneur, a VC board member and an independent advisor.
Commitment to Long-Term
Innovation typically requires a substantial investment with a hope for future return. There is an upfront investment of resources (money, time, effort). The hope is that return on investment will be substantial and timely. Well, one of these (amount and time) or both may fail, especially the first time around. As s0meone said “all overnight successes have been in the works for a decade.” This is true for startups and it is true for innovation initiatives at large organizations. Commitment needs to be to long-term success, not a quick win.
Organizations have many micro-structures that obey Newton’s third law of motion. That is, they apply an equal and opposite force to the innovative forces being applied. Exclusive and secretive behaviour fuels this attitude as departments and divisions try to maintain what they are mandated to do. The solution is to exhibit an inclusive and open attitude towards supporters and resistors alike. While not all resistors will become supporters through an inclusive behaviour, they are guaranteed to resist in the face of a secretive behaviour.
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