In the past few years, an innumerable number of innovation experts, business consultants, specialized journalists and academics have come to the same conclusion: “To be successful in business, a startup mentality is key”.
This declaration was supported and promoted by books, papers and methodologies, intending to motivate large corporations to insert themselves into this culture of entrepreneurship (which is so promising) and support them in the process of cultural transformation.
Being the innovation specialists that we are, always avidly curious to know more about the development of products and services, as well as thinking of new ways to better user experience including new ways to innovate and co-create with our clients, we ask ourselves: If the key to implementing innovation is having a startup mentality, can corporations truly innovate without it?
We proposed to find an answer, by using precisely that, an entrepreneur's point of view.
Startup Mentality + Corporate Mentality. Empathizing with users.
Startups were born to grow rapidly, seeking out and validating an evolutive business model to have a big impact on the market. Instead of trying to launch the perfect product, they create an MVP (minimum viable product), validate it with users, collect the data, learn and then ask themselves: How can we reiterate this solution?
To work with this approach, Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Service Designare used along with certain abilities (mostly associated with soft skills) and a context that gives way to experimentation and learning, where errors are part of the process.
Characteristics of a Startup Mentality::
- Curiosity to enable discovery instead of prediction
- Easily adaptable to change
- Drive to dive into adventure
- Humility to empathise with the needs of others
- Proactivity to work through challenges as a team
Corporations have an opposing position, their DNA needs to reduce risk and have forecasts when they create business. To do this, many companies dedicate time and resources to developing processes, systems and manuals that assure an outcome that is proven, presented to and validated by a Board, without putting the focus on prioritizing the user's needs.
Over the years, we’ve supported our corporate clients in transitioning and adopting new ways to work that allow them to respond to industrial, technological and market transformations, never leaving out one of their biggest needs: to work in a structure that offers a certain level of control.
By understanding that corporations base their learning, experimentation and reiteration on their DNA’s imperative to control results, we decided to rehash our original question to discover how to help corporations to innovate, with a startup mentality, while understanding their original DNA.
Homo Sapiens Intra Prendere
We cannot ask corporations to become something they are not. Big businesses have internal challenges, motivations and reglementations that must be understood in depth. Learning to work with a startup mentality is a process that implies evolutionary transformation, a cultural change. Instead of trying to act like a startup overnight, big businesses should take advantage of what they already have and promote the creation of new roles that leverage and facilitate this transition. The intrapreneur is a role that appears at the crossroads between startups and corporations, bringing the best of both worlds and creating a hybrid setting where innovation can happen.
In business environments, intrapreneurs are born as a newly evolved species that defies bureaucracy, obsolete processes and the inertia of doing something simply because “we’ve always done it this way”. These are people that honestly examine culture and look with an open mind for opportunities to collaborate, defying the status quo but also understanding the needs and context for business from the inside.
Intrapreneurs are the key to taking the entrepreneurial mentality to every corner of an organization and promote work with third parties that can cover internal capabilities that are lacking and close the gap to implement innovation
On a parallel line with intrapreneurs, is Open Innovation, a process through which a corporation opens itself to looking for Startups that complement their main weaknesses, bulking them up with agility and know-how without wasting time on developing these capabilities.
How to gradually evolve towards a startup mentality
Every company that wants to transition towards a startup mentality will have better chances of getting there guided by specialists that orchestrate innovation processes and cultural change. Having collaborated with intrapreneurs from various industries has allowed us to understand how a corporation can evolve, gradually, towards a startup mentality, align teams, facilitate spaces for co-creation and implement innovation using methodologies that allow sustainability over time. These are some of our main discoveries:
- Empower Intrapreneurial Leaders: when leaders are the first to adapt to new policies, it's likely that their employees will follow suit successfully. Soft skills demonstrated by intrapreneurial leaders are exponentially contagious, internally promoting innovation culture that disrupts and defies its own models, before others can get a chance to.
- Create Experimentation Spaces: los espacios propicios para innovar están diseñados para probar nuevos productos, procesos o tecnologías en condiciones reales, sin riesgos asociados. Representan lugares “seguros” donde intraemprendedores pueden experimentar sin afectar las operaciones. En sectores muy regulados, un sandbox, por ejemplo, es un marco que puede contener el impacto de implementar una innovación y donde se pueden realizar experimentos en vivo, en un entorno controlado bajo la supervisión de un regulador.
- Change rhetoric: if companies apply a maxim to diminish risk everyday, a valuable foundation is that failing quickly is a way to reduce risk, while investing less time and resources in a solution that will not be adopted by the market. Understanding this idea facilitates corporations opening up to working with MVP schemes, where the validation of valued proposals are prioritized before advancing in the development of a solution that requires a big investment.
- Open the frontiers of the organization: innovation usually works better when big businesses and small ones can collaborate. Working with third parties that can contribute new and diverse outlooks that also understand how other industries are working out similar challenges is a way to cut down innovation time and accelerate cultural transformation processes.
Entrepreneurs are born of nature and nurture
Do you need help with this transformation??