Can Lean Start-Up Practices Help (Big) Enterprises Be More Successful at Innovation?

Innovation (Photo credit: masondan)

Innovation (Photo credit: masondan)

Congratulations to the Lean Start-Up Machine (now Javelin) team on their funding round. I wish them best of luck in helping to make enterprises more effective and successful at innovation!

In my experiences with innovation in large enterprises the problem isn’t lack of ideas, and many of the ideas do arise from customer experiences. However, I think early development work is sometimes done in more of a ‘skunkworks’ setting. That’s okay perhaps to get to a working prototype or true MVP. But getting users/customers involved in early collaborative development, or at least early evaluation and feedback, is critical to avoid over-engineering and its associated complexity, adding features that are of more interest to developers than users and/or so-called ‘gold-plating’.

The biggest problem I’ve seen around innovation within large enterprises is getting buy-in from the enterprise’s own internal [management] staff. It sometimes seems that as soon as word starts to get out about an innovative product, corporate ‘antibodies’ start to form around it to block it or kill it off. Where there’s innovation there’s change, disruption, unfamiliarity and risk (of both failure and success!). Those are all things the ‘anti-bodies’ have been trained to snuff out. But they are things start-ups have to deal with, and sometimes even thrive on.

If Javelin can help large enterprises apply lean start-up practices around things like: Minimum Viable Products (MVPs); hypothesis setting and testing; starting small with external testing; measurement, feedback and iteration — even sometimes pivots and failures, maybe they can help re-train the antibodies away from bad behaviors that inhibit innovation. Those practices can perhaps help reduce risk and build confidence that the product is feasible, that it can be developed in an incremental fashion, that it has customer value and that it can be brought to market successfully. I’m rooting for Javelin and other companies that may follow their lead. There are few things worse than wasted innovation.

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