How to Build a Startup Inside Your Organization: 5 Key Webinar Takeaways

In the panel, “How to Build a Startup Inside Your Organization,” four leaders discuss their journeys to developing a startup, or hub of innovation, within existing companies.

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This past week, Jordan DiPietro, managing director of The Blueprint by The Motley Fool, participated in “How to Build a Startup Inside Your Organization,” a webinar hosted by Seer Interactive. The panel discussed how individuals can build a startup mentality into the culture of their organization and encourage innovation within an existing company.

Here are our biggest takeaways from the panel.

Takeaway 1: Reframe your thinking around innovation

To introduce the webinar, host Emily Meekins, people operations lead at Seer Interactive, requested that the panelists debunk some of the biggest myths surrounding innovation and startups.

Myth 1: You need to be a creative genius to be innovative.

This is a huge misconception. As Lisa Devieux, associate director of data strategy at Seer Interactive, put it, “Anybody who has the opportunity to deliver something better, faster, or more efficient has the opportunity to be an innovator.”

Myth 2: Startup potential is hampered when you work in a corporate setting.

This isn’t necessarily the case. Yes, it can be more challenging, given that corporations have their brands to consider, but this should not hinder the ideation and curation of innovative ideas.

Myth 3: Innovation is based on a shiny new idea.

Innovation is not all about some brand-new concept. You can have the best idea in the world, but you need to get buy-in from your colleagues and leadership before you can move forward.

Myth 4: Innovation is a solo activity.

Innovation doesn’t thrive in isolation. You need to understand if your idea has a market, or how you need to change it to be viable. You need the insight and opinions of others to successfully move forward. As The Blueprint’s DiPietro said, “You really need to be more inclusionary than exclusionary.”

Takeaway 2: Get buy-in from company leadership early on

Socialize the idea with upper management to make sure that the new product or solution

aligns your innovative efforts with the priorities of the company. Understanding the priorities of the company, and of company leadership, is essential before launching your product or idea.

Takeaway 3: When introducing a new idea, understand that it’s a marathon, not a sprint

Iterations of your product are the key to success. When creating a new product or idea, don’t expect to realize the grand scope of your vision immediately. This is important for two key reasons:

  1. Creating different versions of your product will help you learn whether there’s a market that’s even interested in your idea. As Ethan Lyon, data engineering lead at Seer Interactive, suggested, “Have checkpoints along the way to see ‘should this idea carry on?’ Is everything in the product useful?’”
  2. In a corporate setting, the metrics of success are slightly different than in the startup world. For larger companies, regular measures of profit and revenue are essential, whereas with startups, metrics of success can vary. Set incremental metrics that can give you some space to develop and fine-tune your idea that you and management can all agree on, such as a certain number of new users, a certain amount of traffic to a website or order page, or a particular number of conversions.

Takeaway 4: Change management should not be an afterthought

“There is no innovation without change management.” — Lisa Devieux

Change management should be considered at the beginning of developing a new product or idea. Understanding how innovative ideas and products fit into the landscape of the current company, the policy implications, and how you communicate and train individuals within the company about these new ideas is a part of change management as well.

Takeaway 5: For job seekers, there are ways to identify innovative companies

Not all companies are open to creating an innovation hub, so if you’re on the job market, here are some ways to identify companies that might be more likely to support innovation efforts.

At the research phase of your job search, Lyon recommended “[looking] at the leadership and see if they are engaged in innovative ideas.” Understanding that strong leaders not only support but actively explore and engage with new ideas — either through their own company or activity on social media — is a way to understand the curiosity and innovative drive of a company.

During the interview phase, keep your eyes peeled for several things:

  1. “See if employees have an appetite to move outside of their current role. Do other employees have a drive to find something new?” Devieux said. This indicates that innovation is at every level of the company and is not totally driven by management.
  2. “Look for an organization with internally and externally hired folks,” said Lisha Davis, founder of Arable Ventures, LLC. This enables diversity of thought, which is a key driver of innovation.
  3. “Ask the managers, ‘How do you handle things that fail?’” DiPietro said. Failure is inevitable when it comes to innovation, so understanding that a company can accept that failure and that learning is a part of creating something new is important.

Creating a startup within your organization can be valuable, but it requires some planning

Here are the steps you can take to start becoming a source of innovation and ideas in your own organization.

  1. Understand that anyone can be an innovator. You don’t need to be the next Steve Jobs, or reinvent the wheel. You can find ideas based on what would improve your daily life.
  2. Get buy-in from company leadership early in your process of creating an innovation hub or pursuing an idea. Be sure it aligns with your organization’s strategic initiatives.
  3. When pursuing an idea, be ready to approach it in increments and have set metrics to measure your success. If your idea isn’t reaching its targets, be ready to tweak things until it is successful.
  4. Change management goes hand-in-hand with innovation. Don’t let it be an afterthought.

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