If you think only startups can generate breakthrough innovation, you’re wrong.

Joanna Weidenmiller, CEO, 1-Page

If you think only startups can generate breakthrough innovation, you’re wrong.

In today’s fast moving markets, well-established firms are often accused of failing to come up with breakthrough innovations. Based on the resources available to them, they should be best positioned to deliver innovative products and technologies in their fields, but too often they seem to lose ground against smaller and more agile players. It probably was the modern combination of the internet and the rise of venture capitalists that changed the name of the game, by opening up a new source of disruptive innovation across every industry: the startup.

An agile structure, with a big appetite for risks and high returns, as well as no legacy brands or heavy structures limiting their actions.  Those are some of the elements that enabled startups to experiment, learn from their mistakes, and succeed in disrupting markets.

Does this mean that breakthrough innovation belongs to startups only? Too many large companies started believing in the myth that only startups can truly innovate, and decided to focus their time and efforts on optimizing internal processes and generate efficiencies. It wasn’t long, however, until they realized that these two components alone - without innovation - were not enough to keep their position as market leaders and to grow and prosper.

The truth is that large organizations, creators of the most successful products and services we use today, never really lost the advantages that helped them innovate over the past decades. While they might not come up with disruptive products and services every day, they certainly own all major and complex transformations in their industry. Healthcare is a great example, where companies like GE are leading the way. We see startups launching smart products and services in this space, but the established players shape the healthcare market into which startups’ new solutions can be integrated. 

One of the secrets behind innovative large enterprises is their ability to engage their workforce and promote internal innovation. People at those firms are inspired by the culture of the company and encouraged to provide solutions to the company’s greatest challenges. With internal innovation programs – or campaigns - companies tap into the talent pool that knows best.

The big risk here for enterprises consists in the inability of the top management to act on those ideas - either because the ideas are vague, or because management fails to identify the most valuable contributions and then follow up with their creators. In order to implement successful innovation campaigns, companies will have to:

  • focus on a clear task; a real-time business or technology challenge that the company is currently facing;
  • enable employees to frame their ideas in a standardized, effective format;
  • engage respondents through a platform that stimulates creativity, rewards their efforts and guides them through the writing process;
  • leverage advanced analytics and natural language processing technologies to sort through, curate and organize thousands of ideas.

Companies are now sourcing multi-million dollar actionable ideas from their workforce, by getting the “ask” right, engaging their workforce, and leveraging big data analytics and natural language processing to collect, organize and curate ideas. 

About the Author

Joanna Weidenmiller is a former FBI recruit, model, national rower, serial entrepreneur and active woman in tech who recently took her company, www.1-page.com public on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).  She also spoke at the G20 Summit - Women in Leadership Track held in Brisbane, Australia from November 16 – 17.  She lives and works in San Francisco, CA.