In the panel, “How to Build a Startup Within Your Organization,” four leaders discuss their journey to building a startup, or innovation hub, within existing companies.
Last week, Jordan DiPietro, General Manager of The Ascent by The Motley Fool, took part in “How to create a startup within your organization», a webinar hosted by Interactive LED. The panel discussed how individuals can embed a startup mindset into their organization’s culture and encourage innovation within an existing business.
Here are our biggest takeaways from the panel.
Takeaway 1: Reframe your thinking about innovation
To introduce the webinar, host Emily Meekins, People Operations Manager at Seer Interactive, asked panelists to debunk some of the biggest myths surrounding innovation and startups.
Myth 1: You have to be a creative genius to be innovative.
This is a huge misconception. As Lisa Devieux, associate director of data strategy at Seer Interactive, put it, “Anyone who has the opportunity to deliver something better, faster, or more efficiently has the opportunity to be an innovator.”
Myth 2: Start-up potential is hindered when you work in a company.
This is not necessarily the case. Yes, it may be more difficult, given that companies have to consider their brands, but it shouldn’t hinder the ideation and retention of innovative ideas.
Myth 3: Innovation is based on a brilliant new idea.
Innovation is not limited to a brand new concept. You may have the best idea in the world, but you need to get buy-in from your colleagues and leaders before you can move forward.
Myth 4: Innovation is a solitary activity.
Innovation does not develop in isolation. You need to understand if your idea has a market, or how you need to change it to make it viable. You need the insight and opinions of others to successfully move forward. As DiPietro of The Ascent said, “You really have to be more inclusive than exclusive.”
Takeaway 2: Get buy-in from company management early on
Socialize the idea with senior management to ensure that the new product or solution
aligns your innovation efforts with business priorities. Understanding business priorities and corporate direction is critical before launching your product or idea.
Takeaway 3: When pitching a new idea, understand it’s a marathon, not a sprint
Your product iterations are the key to success. When creating a new product or idea, don’t expect to immediately realize the great scope of your vision. This is important for two main reasons:
- Creating different versions of your product will help you determine if there is a market for your idea. As Ethan Lyon, head of data engineering at Seer Interactive, suggested: “Have checkpoints along the way to see ‘should this idea continue?’ Is everything in the product useful?”
- In a corporate environment, the metrics for success are slightly different than in the startup world. For large corporations, regular profit and revenue metrics are essential, while for startups, success metrics can vary. Set incremental metrics that can give you some space to develop and refine your idea that you and management can all agree on, such as a certain number of new users, a certain amount of traffic to a website or an order page, or a number of conversions.
Takeaway 4: Change management should not be an afterthought
“There is no innovation without change management.” –Lisa Devieux
Change management should be considered early in the development of a new product or idea. Understanding how innovative ideas and products fit into the current business landscape, the policy implications, and how you communicate and train individuals within the business about these new ideas is also part of managing the change.
Takeaway 5: For job seekers, there are ways to identify innovative companies
Not all companies are open to creating an innovation hub, so if you’re in the job market, here are some ways to identify companies that might be more likely to support innovation efforts.
During the research phase of your job search, Lyon recommends that you “[looking] to management and see if they are committed to innovative ideas. Understanding that strong leaders not only support, but actively explore and engage with new ideas – whether through their own business or social media activity – is one way to understand curiosity and a company’s desire for innovation.
During the upkeep phase, keep an eye out for several things:
- “See if employees want to step out of their current role. Do other employees want to find something new? said Devieux. This indicates that innovation takes place at all levels of the company and is not totally driven by management.
- “Look for an organization with people hired internally and externally,” said Lisha Davis, founder of Arable Ventures, LLC. This allows for diversity of thought, which is a key driver of innovation.
- “Ask managers, ‘How do you handle things that fail?'” DiPietro said. Failure is inevitable when it comes to innovation, so it’s important to understand that a business can accept that failure and that learning is part of creating something new.
Building a startup within your organization can be valuable, but it takes some planning
Here are the steps you can take to start becoming a source of innovation and ideas in your own organization.
- Understand that anyone can be an innovator. You don’t have to be the next Steve Jobs or reinvent the wheel. You can come up with ideas based on what would improve your daily life.
- Get buy-in from company management early in your process of creating an innovation center or pursuing an idea. Make sure it aligns with your organization’s strategic initiatives.
- When pursuing an idea, be prepared to approach it in increments and set metrics to measure your success. If your idea doesn’t achieve its goals, be prepared to tweak things until it succeeds.
- Change management goes hand in hand with innovation. Don’t let it be an afterthought.