Has the time for the corporate entrepreneur arrived?

The globalisation of entrepreneurship is producing an explosion of programmes, start-up communities and enterprise labs across the world.

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Ideas, capital and talent are meeting and finding founder teams. In these changing times there is a legitimate argument that larger organisations need to adapt their cultures and approaches to level the playing field and create opportunities for their people to work more entrepreneurially.

Software can be an incredible enabler of this and idea management platforms such as Wazoku’s Idea Spotlight (www.wazoku.com/ CorporateEntrepreneur) are becoming the de facto solution within innovative and entrepreneurially-minded organisations. These platforms offer an off-the-shelf option to businesses to engage their staff (and other stakeholders) in their idea challenges. People are invited to bring their ideas and solutions to defined business challenges, collaborate on these ideas and develop them through a defined process to surface and deliver the best ideas. Unleashing your corporate entrepreneurs has never been simpler, and there is evidence to support the value that can
be, and has been, delivered.

Are our global businesses ready to enable more entrepreneurial cultures to thrive? We live in an age of anti-complexity. Business school teachings, management structure orthodoxies and leadership best practices have created organisational structures that are attempting to manage out complexity. On the surface this isn’t a bad thing. Keep it simple, stupid (KISS) is, after all, a great motto for most things in business (and wider life). However, we are constantly hit with the innovate-or-die truism – this feels incongruent with an age of anti-complexity and is worthy of further exploration.

Breakthrough innovation is the introduction of new ideas that drive a different way of doing things. This requires risk taking. Breakthrough innovators are willing to make decisions and choices on the basis of intuition and insight, rather than relying solely on data and forecasts – they bet on people rather than manage a process. Evidence shows that more than 80 per cent of breakthrough innovators allow projects to start with no projection of future returns. The innovator’s dilemma (as famously defined by Clayton Christensen in his 1997 book of the same name) has lead to the accepted view that breakthrough innovation should be handled outside core organisational structures and allowed to flourish unencumbered by day-to-day core business life.

Is this the most efficient way of managing organisational innovation efforts and delivering true breakthrough innovation? Modern management philosophies encourage matrix structures, flatter hierarchies and open, collaborative approaches. The recent BCG Innovator’s survey found that three-quarters of breakthrough companies use different processes  and KPIs for radical innovation projects. Open organisation structures for radical-innovation easily allow for collaboration with internal and external partners. Additionally, highly innovative companies encourage a culture of experimentation and testing.

Put another way, the innovative organisation starts to sound a lot like the entrepreneurial cultures commonplace within start-ups.

As organisations look to innovate, attract and retain the best talent and drive business performance most effectively, the corporate entrepreneur may become a more familiar and commonplace term across all types of organisations globally.

Simon Hill is CEO & co-founder of Wazoku


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