The Billion Dollar Unicorn Startup Recipe for your Enterprise.

(Does not exist)

Agile transformation is NOT innovation. Fail fast, lean startup, etc does not an innovative corporate make.

After two days at a ‘disruptive strategy innovation’ conference, I’m left feeling deflated and astounded to some extent. Many large companies are desperately trying to force the secret sauce of startups into a process, approach, method or box of some sort. Variations of ‘we’re running a Lean Startup / agile / agile transformation /culture program / building an innovation hub to charge out to startups’ made me squirm.

It’s as if everyone has completely missed the point. Uber and AirBnB, as fantastically disruptive and successful as they are, are outliers and there is no secret sauce to create the next one. Startups are about brave, pioneering, risk-taking PEOPLE trying new and interesting business models to solve problems for other PEOPLE at massive scale.

Everyone begrudgingly suddenly wants to be ‘customer-centric’. What?How do you begin to run a business without doing this? It’s inconceivable to a startup to not be customer focused. Which is why they’re winning.

Not The Recipe

It’s bewildering that anyone can believe that you:

  • add one part Executive sponsorship,
  • One part intrapreneur,
  • a dash of agile,
  • a pinch of lean startup,
  • a bit of fail fast and test and learn,
  • a few KPI’s and
  • lots of dollars and

Viola! – we’ve outsmarted the disrupters and the next big thing will magically happen.

A wave of the startup juice wand and everyone is an entrepreneur and innovator, or pretending to be to get a bonus or increase.

What nonsense.

It’s admirable that there is an appetite to learn and grow and change, but please don’t devalue the true entreneurial spirit. You can’t buy it, force it, train it or demand it. You CAN find amazing, free-spirited, smart and creative people and support them with funding and access to your customers, resources and talent and partner with them to grow.

There are structured, robust approaches to supporting innovation in your business, but they require patience, space, uncertainty, risk and very little ‘process’ or strategic frameworks.

The real recipe

Startups are one part people, one part tenacity, one part crazy and plenty of failure and luck. The most likely outcome is failure – are you really ready for that?

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