Innovate like a startup.

One of the things that's been puzzling me and my clients over the last few years has been how to build the capability to innovate like a start up. A number of industries and for the past half decade of seeing innovators like Amazon or Instagram completely disrupt a space almost over night. The popularity, the shift in consumer behavior is something that the incumbents just can't keep up with. The challenge I get from my clients is how do they build the capability to innovate like a start up? Over the past decade we've seen the formation of three key principles, and trends that have really been the underlining models that a lot of either consulting or professional services divisions today or even innovation professional services firms also use as reference. The first is a personal favorite of mine, Steve Blank's Four Stages To Epiphany. A methodology to actually take the reader pragmatically through the way of exploring an idea before you execute on it. Second, also a favorite book of mine; Clayton Christensen's The Innovators Dilemma. A reality check for those people that have gotten to a point where the incumbent frameworks are their cash cow. Their incumbent ways of doing things limit their ability to see the changes of industry. And more recently one which has become almost like cult like status has been Eric Ries' work around The Lean Startup. How do you make those three transform into an organization? That's the key question I always get, but we have to take a step back first. We have to figure out what are the limiting factors that are preventing this from happening in the past, and enabling an entire generation of innovators to literally accelerate past the incumbent even with a one millionth of the resources. This is happening globally. We recently now see that Airbnb is worth more than many of the incumbent hotel chains. They'll only accelerate further and further and further. One insight came to me, or actually it's been known to me for some time and I bring it some occasionally, and that's a book that was written 60 years ago has principles in there, which around the first steps, and funny enough most of those steps are very similar to the first steps that might have already around mental preparation. The book is written by Thomas Kuhn back in the 1960s. The book is The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. He spoke predominantly about scientific research, and development and how to successfully bring those to market. But one of the principles which shines above everything else is that to truly innovate in any field, one has to shift their paradigm. The rules, the structures of how an industry work, of how you think through product, customer, commercial model, even regulation has to be challenged first before you can innovate. Kuhn really takes us a pragmatic look at around how do we actually shift that because the reality is to actually innovate you first have to challenge the existing incumbent norms, a key challenge for a lot of people. This is why you see a lot of the industries today that have been disrupted. Education, healthcare, banking, a stool lead by people that have had the same paradigm since probably for two decades. The decision makers, the executive boards around the world that are threatened by disruption right now and believe regulation will actually save them are blind to the fact that if they do not shift their paradigm they will never see the change no matter which consulting resources or how many millions of dollars they throw at these things. They first have to take the step of how do they engross or saturate themselves in a way to change themselves, to change the way they see their industry. Only then can they actually think about challenging the paradigm for the new world. The principle out there is that around how do you change, challenge and build capability around a new paradigm? Are you working with your internal learning and development people around shifting in relationship to paradigm? Are you working with your innovation groups around shifting the paradigm of culture in your organization? Are you exposing yourself to people that don't think like you? Seth Godin just recently reposted his blog post around find yourselves a digital coach. I cant' agree more. You need all of these stimuli to shift your paradigm. Otherwise, innovators will challenge your industry. It's time to change your paradigm and innovate. What's your favourite innovation story?

4 Comments

  1. Hello Scott
    Was a pleasure to ear you at CLAB 2014 in Panama.
    I have a question. How Design Thinking fit o this ? (innovate like a startup) . What do you think about Design Thinking and the use as a process for innovation in enterprises?
    Thanks,

    • Thanks for the support. Design Thinking & Lean Startup are a strong pair, particularly in the ideation phase of new product design. The key difference in the two usually comes down to the skills and experience of the team. Design Thinking individuals will thrive as customer centric ideation, while Lean Startup individual thrive as idea validation. Either way, you have to hire the right people to get the most out of each.

  2. Cant believe that the very same 3 authors ( Khuhn, Blank and Christensen) plus Edwards Deming and Ronald Coase’s Nature of the Firm. These have inspired me in creating the Amplify Festival to change the innovation culture at AMP! The purpose of Amplify is to till the soil so the the seeds of new thinking can fall in fertile land. Once they land, they often get nurtured by additional proof points until they take root and sprout. This can take a year, sometimes two- but once the seed has been firmly planted, it demands what it needs to grow….its like a curiosity monster and it feeds on learning more – whether that be to “disprove” and idea or to affirm a hunch. Either way…curiosity is the perfect little monster that cracks open the closed mind! !

    • Scott Bales (Author)

      Annalie, thanks for sharing. I think your work with Amplify is ground breaking for what’s normally a fairly conservative industry. Either way, I’m a huge fan and hope to finally get there in person in 2015. Keep up the great work. Key question, what’s the top three things that frustrate you most about innovation in your industry?

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