Innovation: Not Just for Startups

abstract way_3100666This corporate partner post by Connie Smallwood first appeared in longer form on the CA Technologies blog.

There is the perception out there that in order to be entrepreneurial or innovative, you have to work in a startup. It is true that startups are generally more nimble and take more risk than larger companies. However, not only are there plenty of examples of corporate innovation, but it can be more beneficial for the entrepreneurial-minded to work for a large company instead of a smaller one.

Big companies typically have:

    • The financial means to support multiple innovation projects
    • An operational infrastructure to support go-to-market activities, such as legal, marketing and sales; and
    • A larger and more diverse talent pool to draw from.

But how do you know if a company supports intrapreneurship?

Recently, I spoke on the topic of intrapreneurship at the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Over 1000 conference attendees listened to our panel, “Intrapreneurship: How Your Entrepreneurial Spirit Thrives in Corporate America,” which included representatives from CA Technologies, Cisco Systems, NetApp, and Thomson Reuters. During the discussion, we covered various aspects of intrapreneurship, such as open innovation, crowdsourcing, culture and risk. During our preparation, however, I noticed that each of our companies had much in common: a culture which fosters and supports intrapreneurship; formal programs to capture and nurture ideas; an appetite for intelligent risk taking; and executive management support.

At CA Technologies, for example, we leverage crowdsourcing techniques for collaboration on ideas. Great ideas come from everywhere, and we want to be able to harness all of our talent to come up with the best ideas. Of course, not all ideas will be implemented, so an innovation process is required. But we try to make it as lightweight as possible, by having peers involved – not executive management – at the beginning stages of the process. Our “idea champions” do just that – champion an idea from conception through sponsorship, helping the innovator flesh out the idea into something that is ready for executive management review.

Innovation is not just about the ideas themselves. The organization must foster an innovation culture and have programs in place to allow intrapreneurs to thrive. And any company – large or small – can do just that.

Smallwood, ConnieConnie Smallwood is VP of Innovation and University Programs for CA Technologies.

Learn more about corporate partnership with the Mack Institute.