Innovation - A Priority For Large Enterprises Too

by CXOtoday News Desk    Feb 19, 2015


In recent times, smaller companies—and in particular, start-ups—are seen as the hotbeds of innovation and subsequently large companies are perceived as dull and slow-moving. However experts believe the innovation is every company’s cup of tea, from agile start-ups to lean enterprises, if it wants to grow and remain competitive in the market.

In a recent interview with McKinsey, Intuit cofounder and chairman Scott Cook, Idealab founder and CEO Bill Gross, and Autodesk president and CEO Carl Bass contend that large, established companies can also make innovation a priority. They discuss why a company should be prepared to spend money on big ideas, how it can remove roadblocks to experimentation, and the merits of creating its very own idea incubators. 

According to Scott Cook, “If I had to point to one thing that’s made the biggest difference at Intuit—and there’s a package of things—it was to change how we make decisions, whenever possible, from decision by bureaucracy, decision by PowerPoint, persuasion, position, power, to decision by experiment.”

The decision to foster innovation he believes should come from the top management or the leaders – thereby removing all the barriers that come in the way of innovation. Otherwise, the young innovators in those enterprises would go unnoticed.

Cook explains, “So we put in a series of systems and a culture where the expectation is that if there’s an idea that someone’s passionate about, we put in a system to make it easy and fast and cheap for them to run an experiment.” He believes nothing signals more strongly to your organization that you want your employees’ ideas. And a culture of experimentation can only work when it’s put in place by leaders. The innovators can’t do it.

Idealab’s Bill Gross believes in investing in innovation. “ There are very few leaders who can balance the short term and the long term together, and also know how important that growth is, and have a sufficiently long-term horizon that they’re willing to sacrifice things,” he said.

If we take Gross’ view in the interview, we can aptly say that people like Steve Jobs and Larry Page have taken bold risks that had become big game changers in the world of technology and business, as they had the passion and the will to ‘innovate’.

“I think big companies should visit and start their own accelerators and incubators,” Gross says taking Disney’s example which has an accelerator. It means looking at what models it takes to actually give people equity stakes so that they can act like true entrepreneurs, to give them the autonomy but still have them be connected to the corporation,” says  Gross.

Autodesk’s Carl Bass also believe that companies should take risks to innovate.

It’s great that there’s this thread of new disruptors. As a matter of fact, for CEOs or management of existing companies, it’s the greatest thing that ever happened, in some way. It’s like the expression, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste,” he recommends.

There’s absolutely no harm in trying something completely new, believes Bass as he gives example of his new venture. “This year we decided for the first time to build our own 3-D printer, which we are making with an open-source design. It’s a reference implementation for the software platform. In the 30-plus years that our company’s been in business, we’ve never made a piece of hardware. So that, for me, would be new,” he states and adds, “…and I think a lot of what people substitute for innovation is trying to be three days ahead of their competitor in the market.”

The MvKinsey interviews bring to focus that innovation is one of the most vital elements of business, yet it is arguably the most difficult to perfect. Research by Bain found two thirds of organizations highlighted innovation as a priority, yet less than 25% felt their company was an effective innovator. If you aren’t innovating, your core business will disappear. To avoid such a fate, companies, irrespective of their size or business, should continue to innovate, believe experts.