Can Large Companies Disrupt Faster Than Startups?

How to execute fast when you are playing big


Innovation is like the wild - you need to be agile enough to not be eaten by predators, so you must disrupt or you will be disrupted. Stakes are high, as another disruption may cost a company its position in the market. However, it's easy to desire to lead the disruption than it is to achieve it.

Disruption is not just another buzzword, but the brutal environment we live in, so waiting for disruptive innovations to pass by is not an option. The major causes of disruption are usually globalization and advanced technologies, which created a new niche in the market and secured success by getting it right with an effective business strategy - so the task is to utilize one of them.

To lead in the game of disruption, a company should start with its internal structure and figure out how to speed up execution. Considering that a core of the company (its employees) is a delicate and extremely responsive ecosystem, executive teams need to do all it takes to encourage creativity and agility. If the internal environment is in a good state, executing and innovating will be much easier.

The next step towards disruption is to look at the state of your R&D department. If it doesn't exist, then it certainly should, as it's a place where all potential disruptive ideas are stored, tested, and if there any problems in a product development line - they are also solved there.

Always relying on your own ideas, however, may not be as effective, objective, and customer-orientated, therefore it's worth looking elsewhere as well. The open innovation concept, for example, suggests that innovation can be discovered with the help of external sources, such as other leaders in the industry and even your own customers. Receiving valuable feedback, praising collective thinking, or even creating a mutual innovation strategy with other players, can bring you closer to disrupting.

If we look at the current market, the majority of recent disruptors are startups - so why not to pick up their innovative methods? The main advantage of startups is an 'act lean' approach - they deliver products faster because they possess certain patterns - rapid growth, safe pivoting, and confidence in decision making. Large companies are harder to direct because of the size and complexity of structure, therefore taking the best from startups can help to become a disruptor.

Innovation can't exist in a formal environment. Most of the time, entrepreneurs rely on their natural creative flow, boldness in decisions, and a freedom of networking, as opposed to conventional corporate environments with a closed concept, boundaries, and limits. Free flow of information allows people to ideate, invent fast, and learn, whereas corporate rules considerably slow down creative processes. It doesn't mean, however, that large companies have to sacrifice discipline and order, but it's crucial to inject that 'innovative spirit' into innovation departments.

In order to lead the disruption, a company needs to learn how to effectively accelerate processes internally and communicate externally. Keeping one eye on potential disruptors and another on disrupting yourself is far from easy, but today's market is short on patience with inactive players - so disrupt or you will be disrupted.


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