Innovation is and has always been a defining strength of American business. Companies constantly strive to be the best that they can be, thinking into the future and hoping to create trends, rather than merely keep up with them. The pursuit of innovation may be easiest for small companies, where lean methodologies prize quick thinking and flexibility, but bigger companies aren't letting innovation trends pass them by.
As an accelerator program for early-stage companies, SparkLabKC has a unique perspective on the practices of innovative businesses, and we're seeing more and more alignment with new trends in corporate innovation. A piece in The Huffington Post outlines several of these trends in corporate innovation management, and I want to discuss three that I feel are especially helpful for big businesses seeking the successful innovation demonstrated by our startups.
1. Developing Talent
Developing talent in a large company involves bringing everyone together to ensure that they share the same goals and ideals. When everyone in an organization is on the same page, it becomes possible to innovate both product and processes. By giving management and employees alike the opportunity to learn and grow from each other's expertise, companies can accelerate everyone's growth and development.
At SparkLabKC, each startup we select is given access to more than 80 mentors from virtually every industry, ranging from seasoned entrepreneurs to successful corporate leaders. These relationships are remarkably successful at accelerating growth, as established professionals provide insight and experience in fields where our entrepreneurs have less practice. Whether in accounting, legal, marketing, or more, they can address a variety of areas that are vital to the development of an early-stage company.
Our mentors share their knowledge and in return receive valuable insight into the practices and passions of our innovative entrepreneurs. Everyone grows and everyone wins in a culture that prizes communication and collaboration.
2. Incorporating New, Bold Ideas
Instead of alienating the innovative voices within their organizations through strict adherence to stuffy corporate procedures, large companies are learning to embrace them and reap the benefits. As the article in The Huffington Post states,
"[Innovation driven people] assume that the only way they can express their talents for innovation is by leaving the company and starting a new venture. Corporations are starting to realize that if they empower these folks to develop their ideas inside the company without having to leave, it would enable them to harness this talent pool much more effectively."
During the selection process for our accelerator program, we meet many entrepreneurs who are passionate about making their bold ideas into reality. We select the teams with the most promising ideas to develop their companies as part of our three-month intensive. An openness to big and bold ideas is a necessity in our business, and corporations are following suit by encouraging internal innovation from their best and brightest minds. The ability to take calculated risks, while scary at first, pays off in the long run.
3. Develop Appropriate Timing
Innovation is a creative pursuit, but it benefits from a framework that channels creativity in a productive way. Big companies already have their fair share of policies in place, and they benefit greatly when they take a structured approach to internal innovation. According to The Huffington Post,
"The programs that work well take their employees through a process of coming up with an idea, getting both authorization and resources to develop it based on its merit, and working specifically on that project using the flexible time."
This is the approach we have always taken with SparkLabKC. Our companies begin the program with their ideas fairly well-developed, but the rigors of the 90-day timeline have a proven ability to provide the boost that many teams need to accelerate their growth. The resources we are able to provide give them the opportunity to focus their energy on the aspects of their development that most need to be addressed, and to make pivots when necessary. As a result, they graduate from the program with marked improvement in the unique areas that are key to their continued success.
Innovation continues to drive the success of American businesses, both large and small. These practices, long known to the entrepreneurial set, and finding greater footholds in corporate offices across the country, and for good reason. Big companies will never be able to achieve the laser-focus and reflexes of lean startup teams, but as they continue to embrace the innovation mindset, employees and consumers alike will experience the benefits that come from embracing the possibilities the future holds.
How do you think large companies can emulate the practices of startups to achieve innovation success? Tweet us @SparkLabKC to share your ideas!