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How To Innovate Like A Start-Up

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In the new digital era, many large, steady organisations are coming under threat by much smaller, much more manoeuvrable rival companies. Often start-ups, many less than 10 years old, lack the structural rigidity of their older, larger competitors. This allows them to chop and change more, to adapt to new markets, and commit faster. But can big companies learn to innovate like a start-up?

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We’ve got some ways that they can:

1. Give proper incentives to succeed

Engagement is the be-all and end-all to successful innovation. An engaged employee will go the extra mile, and make all the difference. Simple changes such as using gamification can influence engagement. People like feeling that their hard work is recognised and enjoy rewards that may come from it, and are more likely to work harder in the future for it. Make innovation worth it to the employee, and there won’t be a problem with participation.

2. Lots of mini start-ups

Allowing a small group of employees to focus on one specific project can create a sort of mini-startup environment in order to drive creativity. Launching what is called an ‘incubator program’ or an ‘innovation lab’, can remove the chosen group from their normal constraints  of the business, and can help them think outside the box.

3. Introduce Intrapreneurship

If, for instance, you don’t feel that you can’t devote a group of people to a certain cause, look towards promoting Intrapreneurship. This offers an individual an opportunity to make their idea a reality. Think of it as a Dragons’ Den kind of scenario, where the best idea not only gets the funding to get it started, but also the responsibility of driving it forward. People will be far more likely to push their idea forward if they know they will get recognition and rewards for it, and would be much less likely to go and try to do it themselves.

4. Don’t get ahead of yourself, think small

Efforts to foster a successful innovation programme are often hindered by a tendency to look to big. Most businesses demand at least a three-to-fourfold return on investment from an innovation programme. You don’t have to invent the next transformative product, such as the iPhone, with your first initiative. A series of small, incremental changes can add up to be as successful together and can have a meaningful and demonstrable short-term impact, look how Waitrose saved £100k from incremental changes. Also, by targeting an early win you’ll build enthusiasm and support across the business, establishing processes and encouraging more employees to get involved. Crucially this momentum will likely keep budget holders on-side, securing further investment before trying a more ambitious project.

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