Can Big Companies Innovate Like Startups?

Harvard Business Review notes that almost every big company claims that innovation is in its DNA, yet few are truly innovative.

“After all, start-up employees have a totally different psychology and motivation than those in established firms. Joining (or founding) a start-up is an act of faith — the conviction that an idea eventually can become a sustained commercial success. To translate that belief into reality, start-up participants pitch in wherever it’s needed, put in long hours, and forego financial security. In effect, they are rolling the dice in the hope of hitting the jackpot — but willing to take the slim odds because of their strong belief in the new venture, the adrenaline rush of living on the edge, or the potential size of the prize.”

“In contrast, employees of large established firms operate with a different sense of risk and reward, reassured by financial security and structure. They want the enterprise as a whole to be successful, but are more motivated by the challenges of their particular function and the ability to advance in their careers. Within this context, people in big companies tend to focus more on protecting and preserving their existing businesses than on breakthrough innovations that might cannibalize or destroy them.”

This was the Big Question at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business:

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