FILive: The Culture War Myth: Startups in the Enterprise

Jeffrey Burlin @pwcinnovate  PWC consultant and leader of their internal innovation lab.

I try to mix it up in terms of the types of sessions I attended, but this one definitely fits well with my work situation in a big enterprise.  Plenty of other people attended this session also, so it must have resonated well with many.

30 years ago the difference in culture between enterprise and innovator was cut and dried.  Nowadays it’s not so clear cut.  Jeffrey shared a couple of company profiles without sharing their name and asked the audience to vote via twitter on whether it was a startup or an enterprise company.  Needless to say, the crowd was wrong.  For instance, what would you judge this example?

Twitter  – has 900+ employees, 350m in revenue, based in California.  Startup or Enterprise?

So what’s the motivation to act like a startup?  Personally, the reasons that resonate with me are the benefits to employee culture (working on stuff that matters, clear goal, small motivated team, flexibility in technology) and better products as a result.

So how are enterprises dealing with innovation?  Jeffrey sees two models for bringing a startup mentality to the enterprise:

  1. Outsourcing like Blue Cross Blue Shield’s arrangement with Sandbox in Chicago
  2. Internal Innovation Labs.  If I recall, Walmart kickstarted theirs by acquiring a small company or two they viewed as innovative.

Requirements for starting an internal innovation lab:

  • Executive Support – Introductions, funding, etc.
  • Freedom to Fail.  Not every project will succeed.  In fact many may not.
  • Single decision maker for whether the project proceeds
  • Avoid the HiPPO (Highest paid person’s opinion) and allow the single decision maker above to decide how things proceed.
  • Agility and ability to adapt to changing circumstances
  • Postpone ROI-driven decision making.  That’s not to say ignore, but postpone.

Random statistic: Walmart has ~1500 in eCommerce.  Holy crud!

Good session.  This’ll give me plenty to think about going back to work.


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