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Oct 30 2013

The Next Million Apps — Big Companies Must Disrupt Themselves

Innovation shouldn’t be the domain of the startup alone—it should be everyone’s mandate, no matter how big your enterprise.

Far too often, we hear stories of entrepreneurs and job applicants who have left corporate America because they feel stifled, slowed by the lack of an innovation culture within their organizations. This trend hurts everyone as domain expertise is lost and customer satisfaction deteriorates. Most startups fail, taking with them potential solutions to real problems.

So why the disconnect between potential and realization? It’s not that companies are afraid or incapable of innovation. It’s not that they are not motivated to improve. In our experience, it often comes down to aligning risk and reward, goals and accountability.

The Agile model we follow is flexible and powerful, but it does demand a few things of us as practitioners, and these can be easily adapted in the established corporate context.

Be Lean: Start small, get feedback, iterate and invest according to value delivered.

Stay Small: Taking small steps toward a big goal is far less intimidating and usually far less expensive. It is undoubtedly better than not starting!

Prioritize: A good User Story enumerates both the desire of the User, and the value of doing so. With the first two practices above in place, the high value Stories should always bubble to the top.

This process is proven to validate ideas quicker, reduce time and dollar risk, and shorten time-to-market. User acquisition and monetization (additional revenue, reduced expense, time recapture) are often the biggest challenges for the startup and build meaningful barriers to progress (funding, hiring) and often survival.

The real power of implementing this in the larger enterprise is the existence of large and defined User groups—clients, partners, vendors, and importantly the internal customer. In many cases one or more of these User groups is inherently motivated to adopt and even sponsor corporate innovations.

This isn’t a revolutionary idea. The emergence of events like SwitchPitch (which MojoTech participated in), where large companies pitch partnership ideas to innovative startups, shows that this is something that the world’s leading companies are realizing they need to do.

I also know this works, because I’ve done it with dozens of global corporations. MojoTech has been called on to build products for big companies who recognize the need to innovate and encourage all of their employees to come up with big ideas.

But you don’t need to hire an agency to innovate for you. (Though, of course, we’d be happy to help).

All you need is to demand big ideas from your team, to mitigate the risk of trying those big ideas, and to create a repeatable process for executing on them. Give that company suggestion box (hey, there’s a nice app idea!) some life.

You can nurture, challenge, and delight your brightest employees by giving them what top performers really want. Or, you can continue to send them looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Which approach will you choose?

—Duncan (@duncanshaw)