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6 Steps to a Smarter Start-Up

Innovation is about turning ideas into reality, says Frog Design's Doreen Lorenzo, but not every company has the right DNA.
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Ideas are cheap--it's turning them into reality that's the hard part, says Doreen Lorenzo. 

"Innovation for me is meaningful change," said the president of Frog Design during the Dell Women's Entrepreneurs Network on Monday. "It is about breaking rules. It's about making something that matters in the world. And creativity, well, that's the way you do it." 

There's no formula for it, innovation is a way of life. 

"Start-ups, people who have that entrepreneurial spirit, they just think like that," she continued. "It's in their system ... The question is, How do you keep that DNA going year after year as the business grows?" 

Here are her six tips: 

Make innovation your core. Innovation needs to be incorporated into the framework of the company, not as a separate arm or department. It's like having a heart outside your body, said Lorenzo. If you don't value innovation and choose to bill it as something separate, your workers won't take it seriously either. 

Make it your culture. While innovation starts with leaders, it's important everyone in the company--from the finance team to the procurement team--understand its role in your business. "Everybody has to be thinking about how to solve problems," said Lorenzo, adding start-ups should train their staff in thinking outside the box.  

Hire for diversity. Start-ups need different points of view. Nothing makes problem solving more fun than coming at it from many perspectives, said Lorenzo, who takes pride in the fact someone once dubbed her company an "island of misfit toys."

Let customers inspire you. Thanks to social media, companies now have access to their customers. Utilizing this access, companies should learn about the customers, gain insight and based on that insight derive their next move. 

Fail, and fail better. Part of incubating ideas is failing and being able to pick yourself up, said Lorenzo. "In the business world, failure has a really bad connotation and people think there is something really awful with that." But there's not. Rather than think of failure as a bad thing, entrepreneurs should view it as a learning experience. "If you don't fail, you don't learn," she added. 

Be patient. "You are not going to do something in one quarter. It takes time to make this work, and you have to stay the course, which means you need conviction," she said. "I talk about this all time because I see people run when it's hard--and it gets hard." 

IMAGE: Corbis
Last updated: Jun 3, 2013

JANA KASPERKEVIC | Staff Writer

Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.




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