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In his recent SVIC webinar, lean startup coach Tristan Kromer describes a corporate ecosystem as the “landscape” within a company. This includes a host of factors such as culture, processes and resources. All of these can help or hinder the process of generating and implemented new ideas.

In today’s era of digital disruption corporations face the need to innovate like never before. Competition from tech startups, as well as digital platforms like Uber and Airbnb, have put traditional businesses on the back foot.

These threats require a response built on new ideas and new ways of thinking. But achieving that inside a company is a challenge; established processes, a lack of skills and simply fear of trying out new things all get in the way.

“The obstacles we see in startup ecosystems apply very directly to corporate ecosystems,” says Kromer.

To overcome these obstacles an organization must build an environment in which innovation can flourish. The blueprints for such an undertaking have already been drawn up: they can be seen in the world’s startup ecosystems in places like London and Silicon Valley. Looking to them, corporations can learn what they need to do to stimulate internal entrepreneurship.

What’s stopping innovation?

When it comes to the corporate ecosystem, what keeps innovation at bay? Although every company is unique, there are a number of common roadblocks. Among them is a lack of opportunity for employees to propose new ideas. When this happens, innovation cannot even begin. If all of a worker’s time is dedicated to their core tasks, they will never be able to step back in order to come up with something new.

“If all the people in your company are booked 100 percent of the time with business as usual, then they simply don’t have any opportunities,” says Kromer. “So regardless of how many employees you have, you’re not going to generate any ideas.”

Fear also has a role to play. When employees worry that they may be punished for suggesting something novel, they will keep silent. If they are concerned questions will be asked about why they have time to dedicate to original ideas, they will keep those ideas to themselves.  These are just two of several possible obstacles to innovation within a corporate ecosystem. Others include a lack of skills, bureaucracy and organizational silos.

Help is at hand

Yet the good news for business leaders is that there are well-defined strategies to tackle each hurdle. The trick is to flip each one around so that it becomes something positive. If employees don’t have the opportunity to propose new ideas, for example, a company can bring in a policy mandating everyone spend 20% of their time experimenting. This, famously, has been implemented at Google.

Meanwhile, fear of putting forward new thoughts can be alleviated by having the CEO share a personal story of failure. If the boss admits they can sometimes go wrong, then everyone else will feel comfortable doing so too.  

In his SVIC webinar, Kromer shares details of these and other solutions to the common roadblocks to corporate innovation. He offers practical advice on how any company can immediately start building the kind of corporate ecosystem which will encourage internal entrepreneurship.


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