You're a startup, but how innovative are you?

If you're past start-up phases, how "old" has your thinking become?

As the founder and president of DDG, a consultancy that designs, builds and manages startups inside Fortune 500 companies, Justin Tobin qualifies as a "change agent."

Tobin tries to get larger entities to adopt the mindset of their younger, leaner (and often more successful) competitors.

Here are 5 ways to do it.

If you're not a start-up, think like one

"For large organizations, often satisfied with the status quo, the imperative to innovate and grow becomes more difficult," says Tobin. "As markets and brands mature, competition gets fierce."

Look at your younger, smaller--and often more successful--competitors. How does your speed-to-market compare? Are you deploying customer-centric user groups to innovate products and reach new markets?

How saddled are you with bureaucracy and hierarchy? If you're a CEO, when's the last time you spoke to a customer? If it was more than 3 months ago--you're not thinking like a startup.

"A strong, positive growth culture is created and protected by the people who work there," says Tobin. "And it starts from the top."

Integrate--don't incubate

Believing that innovation can only happen when separated from the organization's main business, many CEOs set up separate satellite units led by "Chief Innovation Officers" to prevent getting caught up in all the red tape and internal barriers.

Tobin sees this as bad process for innovation.

"All innovation efforts and functions need to be fully integrated into the larger organization in order to encourage innovation and scale it from the inside out," he says. "This is especially true if one of your barriers is old-school mindsets and behaviors that prevent new ideas, processes and methodologies from being enforced."

Building an internal innovation unit can instill these mentalities and processes.

"Once an innovation group is established, most organizations aren't sure what to call it because the name is symbolic of the type of work being done there, which can change often," he says. "I'm seeing the trend shift from 'labs,' which calls to mind a mad scientist experimenting with wacky potables, to 'practice'-- these units increasingly focus on projects that are more attainable and can be tested, iterated, implemented, scaled and put into practice. It's all about measured innovation now."

Hire innovative talent

"The competition for innovation talent is at a fever pitch," says Tobin. "The dearth of innovation talent, coupled with the changing arc of people's career paths--they want jobs where they can have a social impact, diversity of projects and flock to purpose-driven start-ups--means it will only grow more intense."

"The concept of paying your dues and working your way up the corporate ladder without a voice is unacceptable to young talent. Large companies need to create a people model that's reflective of that. Innovation can't happen without innovative talent."

It's B-to-U, stupid

The definition of marketing continues to evolve. Let's face it, consumers are the new CEOs--get used to it.

"As consumers take more control and act as advocates for brands, companies need to stop thinking of themselves in the construct of B-to-B or B-to-C," says Tobin. "The future is B-to-U (a.k.a. business to you). Ultimately every business is talking to or trying to influence an individual. While some of these old definitions are still important, from a marketing perspective, they're no longer entirely relevant."

Smart data, meet smart design

The emphasis has already shifted from big data to smart data, but what's the future?

"The businesses that are winning today don't think about data for data's sake, they think about how to leverage it effectively and how it can be turned into better outcomes," says Tobin, who cites Amazon as a brand that's arrived at the smart data stage and is just now dabbling with smart design in productive ways.




Published on: Jun 18, 2015