Think Small For Big Ideas

Is your company too big to innovate? For some organizations, size and structure can stifle employees’ creative spirits. That’s why many large organizations are turning to start-ups for training in innovation, agility, and how to think like an entrepreneur.

Here are a few lessons that the Fortune 500 can learn from the little guys:

1. Stay Close to Your Customers – Most great business stories start with an entrepreneur who passionately wants to solve a problem. Often, it’s a problem that the entrepreneur shares, so he knows his target customers intimately. As a company scales, senior managers interact with customers less frequently and often lose touch with their day-to-day needs.

2. You Have to Believe – Successful entrepreneurs are passionately committed to what they do. Sure, most want to get rich along the way, but in order to put their careers and capital on the line, they have to believe in their product/service. This dedication and belief gets them through the long hours, the self doubt, and the seemingly impossible problems. Apathy is an enemy of innovation — and all too common in Corporate America.

3. Stay Nimble – Small companies have the ability to adapt quickly and evolve with customer needs. While the big organization is busy trying to turn the aircraft carrier around, the tiny start-up has already zipped upwards. While structure is essential for a successful company, too many rules can make it very difficult for your innovators to fail productively (an essential part of innovation) or act on a brilliant idea.

4. Limitations Can Lead to Breakthroughs – When you’re working with limited resources, you have to be creative. Large corporations can throw money and staff at a problem, but small companies must use ingenuity. This approach also applies to hiring decisions. With a limited headcount, a start-up can’t afford to hire mediocre employees.Only driven, resourceful superstars need apply. Hear Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy & Mather talk about sweating the small stuff.

How else can corporate leaders learn from entrepreneurs? Are small companies inherently more innovative? Share your thoughts with us here.

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