The Rise of the Corporate Entrepreneur

With all the titles what does it all mean?


Corporate America is changing.

Now, before you accuse me of stating the obvious, I’m talking about the culture of innovation. I love talking about innovation. I love innovation the way a paper towel loves a tipped-over glass of juice on your kitchen countertop. It gets to do what it was created to do!

I am by no means an expert in this area, but the reason I love it is that no one else is an expert either. Sure, there are innovative geniuses and experts in any given industry that I get to learn from every day, but the functional area of innovation is a living, breathing element of our world.

Don’t mistake what I’m discussing here, though. I’m not talking about research and development. I’m talking about disruptive innovation. When I say that, your mind likely gravitates toward start-ups and venture capital funds. Those are not the areas I’m addressing either. I know as much about crowdfunding as I do about how much wood a woodchuck could actually chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

All of our large corporate clients are grappling with the concept of disruptive innovation. There are two things, according to Coca-Cola VP of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Design to Grow author David Butler, which hinder large companies looking to break through in this space:

  1. Warren Buffett calls it the Moat of Investing. Competitive advantages at most large corporations protect those particular organizations, but they also typically keep those corporations from trying new things. As a result, organizational navigation can become exceedingly difficult.
  2. Technology leaders such as Apple and Facebook don’t have those moats. Google just announced that it is openly competing with AT&T. Like Google, Apple is making a car. If you mention a Coca-Cola Car, eyebrows are raised in consternation; but if you say Apple Car, it makes sense. So why is the tech industry seemingly the only one that has free reign to disrupt any space it wants?

Corporate venturing isn’t new but it’s moving earlier in the process than before. We are now seeing Fortune 500 companies going to people with an idea and co-developing start-ups from the ground up. That is revolutionary.

You have to figure out how to uncover the remarkable individuals who could help change the game for your company on a global scale. Find the people who are with organizations which place barriers at every turn – and whose response to those barriers is to treat them as speed bumps rather than stop signs. That person can be defined as an explorer rather than a manager. A manager manages a process. An explorer gets the scars … and often the rewards.

To hire the best disruptive innovators (a.k.a. the corporate entrepreneurs), you have to find a keen chess player. Rahul Raj, the VP of Marketing & E-Commerce at ecobee, explains it well:

 'When you think about the mind-set of a good chess player, the first move is only good if it is connected to the endgame. You have to respond based on the move the opponent is making. The opponent is the inertia of the company. They see it as a bit of a game to be played. The objective is to win, but it is a bit of a dance. If you think about realizing major change, you identify stakeholders and realize how they can move. Adjust your macro game. That is what a lot of people don’t do.'

You’re not looking for a unicorn to do this. You’re looking for a chameleon. Someone who can wear a suit at a board meeting but wears an entrepreneurial Superman cape underneath. Those people exist, and they can’t wait to take your call.


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