How to Innovate Like a Startup 101: 4 Tips from the Experts | The Garage Group

How to Innovate Like a Startup 101: 4 Tips from the Experts


Any leader at a large corporate organization will probably tell you that innovation is a critical part of his or her company’s business philosophy. Yet, these companies are often criticized for producing few disruptive product launches and for being extremely slow in their decision-making processes. While large companies struggle to innovate, we are seeing a surge of entrepreneurial spirit and significant startup activity in the industries that many market research clients compete in, as well as within the market research industry itself.

In light of this surge of startup growth, how do large (vendor or client) companies keep up with the innovation and pace of startups, and how can they replicate the same creativity and rapid success within their organizations? Specifically, what is the role and responsibility of insight leaders and market research organizations for bringing innovation to our brands and industries? What are the new skills needed for market researchers to think more entrepreneurially and to enable organizations to make decisions with more speed and agility?

Get ready to dig into these topics and more next week during the “How to Innovate Like a Startup 101 (for those of us in Big Companies)” panel at The Marketing Research Event (TMRE) in Orlando, Florida. Our very own Ann Thompson will be hosting and facilitating the panel as part of the “MBA” Courses conference series. Additional panel members will include Kristi Zuhlke (CEO & Founder, KnowledgeHound), Kristine Greiwe (Insights Director, Lyft), Luana Nichifor (Senior Manager of Global Business Solutions, Procter & Gamble) and Terrae Schroeder (Director of Global Insights and Planning, Kellogg Company).

To give you a sneak peek of some of the topics that will be covered on the panel, see what Ann and Kristi (CEO of KnowledgeHound) have to say below about entrepreneurship, corporate obstacles and market research—and then check out the panel at TMRE on Monday, November 2nd at 4:15 pm EST. If you’re not attending the TMRE conference, be sure to follow along with us on Twitter as our team live-tweets the key learnings from the panel.

1. What can people expect to take away from the “How to Innovate Like a Startup” panel? Why should they check it out?

Kristi: People should expect to feel inspired and energized after coming to the panel. People who are innovative, creative and making progress are always inspiring and help others to feel the same. The audience can also expect to learn some tactical strategies they can start doing now at their organizations or in their own personal development to make shifts and create breakthrough innovation.

Ann: People can expect to also hear examples from thought leaders and practitioners at Kellogg, P&G, Lyft and KnowledgeHound, as well as a few examples from The Garage Group of things that are working and things that are not working so well. We’ll share principles and theories, but also practical ideas.

2. What are some of the biggest obstacles to innovation in the corporate world today?  

Kristi: I believe the biggest challenge is the lack of inspiration for thinking outside of the box. When I was working in corporate America, I spent my entire day, and many evenings, working inside the four walls of my company. After leaving corporate America, I started attending networking events for entrepreneurs and found them very inspiring. I could finally think outside of those four walls, and I realized the innovation that was happening around me. I couldn’t believe all the progress the world was making while I was busy just focused on a single product.

Ann: I agree with Kristi’s thoughts here that the biggest issue is lack of external focus and awareness. I would also add that another factor is simply fear of the unknown and risk aversion. Unfortunately, until there is a crisis situation, corporate teams are often unwilling to take a different approach. Many corporations are like the infamous boiling frog (a frog will boil to death without realizing he is any danger if the heat is just gradually turned up to boiling). They lack the external focus to realize that there are meaningful shifts happening outside of their walls and then lack the willingness to act differently even if they sense a need.

3.If you had to recommend one thing for a corporation to implement to start fostering more agility, what would it be?  

Kristi: I would recommend corporations to get to a yes or no faster. We spend so much time and money working through the bureaucracy to finally get to a “no” or sometimes even a “yes”.  Finding out how to get to the key decision-maker faster and forcing a “no” or a “yes” decision quickly is really important.

Ann: While this might sound provocative, cutting team size drastically will immediately require agility. Fewer decision makers and stakeholders means teams can move faster (the #1 reason corporate teams move slowly is the high number of stakeholders involved in any decision).

4. What are some things that market research professionals can do to help their organizations become more entrepreneurial?

Kristi: Encourage people to attend entrepreneurial conferences and networking events. This will give them inspiration and energy to bring back to the office.

Ann: I agree with Kristi; and would add that market research folks can step back and ask, “how would an entrepreneur make this decision?” And then ask their teams and multi-functional peers to consider whether their organization is being guided by the right set of guidelines and principles, or whether they are being guided by a set of practices that have become habitual rather than helpful.

5. How is the field of market research changing?  

Kristi: People are not tolerating long lead times for market research. They want things now; getting research faster will be critical.

Ann: Insights have become much easier to discover. Market research needs to become more method-agnostic and focused on getting learning that is quickly actionable and helping organizations not to sit on insights without action.

Hope to see you at the panel on November 2nd! Also make sure to look out for The Garage Group’s booth in the exhibit hall. (We’re in booth #706 and will be handing out massive dark chocolate bars from Graeter’s, a famous local Cincinnati ice cream and candy institution–don’t miss out.)

The Garage Group helps corporates innovate and grow like startups.

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