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Innovation in Big Companies: Do they Lead or are they the Problem?

Innovation is seen as difficult in large organisations. Hierarchies, politics, the drive for quarterly revenue numbers often is seen as the roadblocks to building a truly innovative company. But, if not in the big company, then where? While small startups might have the idea generation power to come up with idea after idea, they lack the resources for implementation, and ideas without implementation are just dreams. I was interested to read Scott Anthony’s views on this in Bloomberg article recently.  He maintains that companies looking for their own corporate catalysts should ask three critical questions:

  1. Do we take advantage of our global scale in a quest to identify up and coming talent?
  2. Does our internal environment support the work done by potential catalysts?
  3. As we as innovative in our approach to talent identification and development as we are in our efforts to develop new products and services?

Point of View With respect to Scott’s point 1, it often scares me to see how the identification of up and coming talent is done by:

  • Friendships – who do people like
  • Necessity – we need someone and we need them now to fill a role
  • People promoting people like themselves

I think we have a very long way to go not only in setting up processes for the identification of talent (which are usually in place), but in breaking these three barriers to the effective promotion of real talent that is good for the business. In terms of Point 2, the internal environment of organisations often does not support work done by potential catalysts. In fact, it often destroys that work. Companies need to realise this and change the processes so that disruptors and innovation catalysts are welcomed and embraced. And with respect to innovation in our processes, this is fundamental. The world has moved into one of re-imagination, and we need to take a long hard look at our current talent identification processes, and re-imagine those processes in the same way as we continue to reimagine our business processes and opportunities.

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