Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Innovate like a Start Up 101 (for those of us in big companies)

TMRE Panel

How to Innovate like a Start Up 101 (for those of us in big companies)

Ann Thompson, The Garage Group
Kristi Zuhlke, Knowledge Hound
Tarrae Schroeder, Kelloggs
Kristine Greiwe, LYFT
Luana Nichifor, Proctor & Gamble

Ann Thompson began the talk about her big company background, at Proctor and Gamble. Then, switched to her life no at a start up. The garage group helps enables corporates to innovate and grow like start ups.

Why should we care about start ups?
1.     Uncertainty—it is the new norm, accept it. Embrace it.
2.     Speed—faster speed to market wins. Gets faster everyday.
3.     Insights—insights are the new commodity. The question is what do you want to do with it.
4.     Talent—getting talent is the new war. The increase of those getting an entrepreneur degree has risen 550% over the past few years.

What do startups do differently?
1.     Operate with minimum resources. Most begin with two or three people.
2.     Get externally focused. You have to stay externally focused to win.
3.     Pursue multiple directions. Instead of getting deadlocked on one direction, start ups are adaptive and pursue several directions at once.
4.     They iterate and pivot. Fast, too. They pivot and adapt before corporate American sends a preview deck to upper management.

First question: What are the differences between how a corporate team or a start up innovates?

·      Kristi Zuhlke: Start ups move much more quickly. If I were to go back into corporate work, I’d launch and test things much more quickly.  You’d learn more, faster. Decrease the time to learning—that is the difference.
·      Kristine Greiwe: On the walls of LYFT is a sign that says Create Fearlessly; creativity is not fostered in a corporate meeting room. I’d like my team out of the office more, as it fosters a more inspiring culture.
·      Terrae Schroeder: The system is set up differently. The goal in a large company is to not fail. Organizationally, the rewards system and goals are different.
·      Luana Nichifor: We have five business units, five markets; so the size can slow you down.

Second question: Can you give us some ideas that you’ve been able to make a difference at a large organization?
·      Luana Nichifor: At P&G it can be easier than at some companies. We try to apply start up thinking wherever possible. We collapsed a 200-question survey to a much easier instrument.
·      Kristi Zuhlke: Find companies who you wouldn’t find in the typical RFP process to find a company that will force you to think differently.
·      Terrae Schroeder: If you get to the clear insight, it provides courage to innovate. This clarity can inspire innovations to move fast.
·      Kristine Greiwe: I am the first person to do consumer insights at LYFT, but the brand team is hungry for insights and consumer data. As a start up, we are resource and time constrained. The second thing I borrowed from P &G is storytelling, bringing the consumer stories to life. The way to do it is to get out of the office.

Third question: Have any of you had experiences in the corporate world where you had to find an answer quickly—and the organization used the data.
·      Terrae Schroeder: We are keen on developing the Institutional Gut. Remember, you are a consumer. Internal intuition is valuable. Google a question. Build trust in intuition.
·      Luana Nichifor: It is easier to grow and build insight depth at an organization. Give them immersive experiences. We have so much data, too much. We distill the data down to visuals the teams can use for their power points, which helps a lot.

Final question: each of you on the panel have gumption, so what is the role of personal risk and leading change.
·      Kristi Zuhlke: I left the corporate world for a real startup. At P&G my manager encouraged risks. He’s the CEO of Levi’s today. In corporate America you actually have a bigger parachute to take risks. Lead. Take risk. Or, you’ll follow.
·      Luana Nichifor: There are rewards for risks. It’s easier to start something for some people. If you encounter a Wow moment, then you cannot say no.

Some general advice was conveyed in the open question and answer session:

·      In terms of trying to force feed a product, listen to the market. Find the pain points. Solve those. Run test.
·      Some large corporations are open to working with Start Ups to solve problems outside of accelerators and pure open innovation projects.
·      Use your own network for research to move quickly.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN. Visit to learn more.

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