It’s not good. period. I should probably start by telling you what I think of as a corporation: 1) Sign offs 2) “strategic plans” that cannot be altered in a moment’s notice 3) High level executives who want to ‘stick with what they know’.
In my first start up, we went completely outside the box and did things that had never been done before. We didn’t listen to other people’s opinions, but like the book BLINK says, we went with our gut…and we got it right. We had belief in our product (leads), we were able to sell our product, and our CEO / COO that ran the marketing component of our business were not limited by norms. To be more precise, they went against the norms. We ended up with two things: 1) Profitability in under one year 2) A new business model for our industry. If we had been running our business trying to stick with what we knew, not changing or testing things on the ‘fly’, and not listening to the younger / less experienced folks in our organization, none of this would have occurred.
Taking “C” level executives from the corporate world and throwing them into a start up business is not a good thing unless there is balance. If you have 3 “C” level or “VP” level employees from ‘corporate’, they should be balanced by those of us who have succeeded in the ‘start up’ world. There is a reason the same people are successful in start ups again and again and again; they have great business instincts, have no fear, and are tenacious. When they try something that is “outside of the box”, they’re going to do whatever it takes to make it work. They’re out to prove their model. In many companies, they would likely be defined as “rebels” as they may be superstars, but many of their ideas are viewed as outrageous.
Start up people need freedom. They need freedom to make decisions and freedom to act on decisions within a short time frame. Not everything must be laid out in a “plan”. If something works, SCALE IT…and scale it immediately before your competitor does.
Where did this come from? Many companies I work with have solid products…not disruptive technology and neither are all business models different, but the products can certainly beat out that of their competitors. Most have high level executives who come from ‘corporate’ backgrounds; certainly brilliant and experienced in their respective areas, but ‘corporate’ nonetheless. At times, I’m hired to consult in one area that I’ve had immense success in; marketing for higher education. Under the marketing umbrella, many times I’m hired to execute on ONE aspect of that strategic marketing plan. I attempted to remain focused on that specific ‘goal’ and as I’m was executing, it becomes apparent that there are secondary strategies needed to supplement what I was doing. It’s low risk / low cost. I put it out there for the companies to evaluate. Response, “We’ll think about it”…and you could tell the companies weren’t ‘really’ going to think about it. Think about it? 1) Who thinks about anything in a start up? Think about it for 5-10 minutes maybe…and get back to me with an answer. It would be less than a $2K test. I wanted to say, “if it doesn’t work, take it off my paycheck…” but surprisingly keep my mouth shut. 2) DATA. Past data from the same exact type of campaign shows that my ‘gut’ instinct was correct. I guess I should have sat down and made a formal “business case” for what I wanted to do, but it’s a start up – who has the time?
Anyways, as a consultant – even if hired to focus on 1 area of the business…I consider it my “job” to advise on other parts as well. I don’t mind being told, “No”, if there’s a good reason…but for a cheap test, that’s 100% scalable, and historical data proves it works…I don’t want a “No” or an “I’ll think about it”. I want a “Go for it” – like a start up company with a “start up” executive team would do.
In every company I’ve worked for, innovation and creativity have been applauded…sort of.
Executives encourage innovation in business, but many times unless strategies comes across to the rest of the business as “their ideas”, the executives are not happy. I contend that this is one of the reasons start up businesses have become so popular amongst the younger generation. Gen Y does not hold back. They are ‘connected’, literally and figuratively, and have grown up accustomed to any information they want at their fingertips. In a corporation, if a Gen Y is sending his ego maniac boss an idea that may be big business, you can bet they have also IMed it to 10 other people too…just to ensure they get credit. I’m on the cusp of Gen Y / Gen X – but I say, “go for it Gen Y”. There is nothing that will slow down a company more than corralling innovation. Gen Y has been brought up in the world of “positive reinforcement” and whether this is monetary or a simple ‘nice work’ email, this is what we have been conditioned to recieve…and you can be sure that we will not sit back while someone else gets the “kudos”. I know I won’t.
Some companies truly do embrace their Gen Ys opinions and have taken the time to understand how to motivate and work with them. These companies currently have the largest profit margins. Apple is a great example of a company that serves the Gen Y population. While Mr. Jobs is running the company, he’s smart enough to know that the people that will “spend money on gadgets” – even if they have to steal it from their parents – should be a large part of all of his strategies.
If we look at how schools teach today; unless a student is part of a Montessori school or private school, they are following the same lesson plans everyone else is. The students in “gifted” classes may get a bit more leeway and have a bit more room to be creative, but not much. Conform, conform, conform is all students are taught. Read the information and regurgitate the information. Education, even higher education, has fallen into this trap as well.
Is it that our businesses have sprung into downplaying creativity because they are a product of our public school system?
Ken Robinson made a revolutionary speech regarding just that at TED 2006