This article was originally published by Jošt Faganel based on his experience working with more than 100 corporate innovation teams.
In the past 20 years, I have had the opportunity to work for really big corporates as well as chase my dreams as a startup founder. Looking back, it would be unfair to say that one experience was more valuable than the other. Now working at HighTechXL, one of the missions I have set myself on with my journey here is enabling innovation within corporates and helping intrapreneurs build their in-corporate ventures or, in short, drive game-changing innovation.
When taking corporate teams on a startup journey, it's interesting to learn how they view the “other world." They see startups as a team of hipsters, hustlers and hackers, working out of cool offices, doing something they absolutely love, wearing their signature hoodies and making millions on IPO’s and exits. This is true to a certain extent, the latter just for a lucky few. In reality it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Startups are, by definition, a learning organization, learning teams. What lies under the surface is a permanent trial-and-error cycle and a lot of hard work to find the sweet spot, which will be a confirmation and small step to indicate the startup team is going in the right direction. They chase their dreams in fierce competition. They are on a mission to disrupt existing markets, Fortune 500 companies. Fighting gorillas with unlimited budgets. Their only advantage is laser focus, speed and the courage of the team. It’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of hard work.
Some succeed, most fail. And still most do it again anyway.
You cannot innovate without failure. Startups know this, yet in the corporate world, failure is perceived as a bad thing, as something that was done wrong. Most commonly failure is associated with incompetence, and that’s bad for your career. However, that’s how innovation goes. You can improve the odds of success by giving guidance, mentorship and coaching, training an innovation team on new methodologies, offering focus and top-down support, giving time to innovation, working with real entrepreneurs, but you cannot avoid failure nor can you predict when it’s going to happen.
The truth about failure is this: there is no such thing as failure. The individuals within these corporates -- those who take on the innovation challenges and dare to fail -- are the future of those companies. These heroes dare to challenge the established order, they get their hands dirty by trying to achieve what the company has never done before, they work differently than their colleagues, they fight to get their first customers, they work with small budgets, they build and launch their first product, they find their way through the maze of the corporate “NO departments." And by doing so, they change. They become empowered to make an impact. And they continue to do so, regardless of the intermediate result. They embrace that failure is solely a necessary step to success and one of the many attempts in learning to reach the set goal.
Working with over 100 corporate innovation teams in the past year, what I see is the change in people never gets old. It always gives me goosebumps. It makes me feel proud. Regardless if a corporate team or employee succeeded or failed, everyone went to their next challenge proud, inspired, empowered and reaching beyond their maximum potential, inspiring others to do the same. They became better employees, managers and leaders. You can never take that away. And you can never consider that a loss.
Jošt Faganel is an entrepreneur with a passion for technology and innovation. He brings over 20 years of multidisciplinary entrepreneurial experience to the table. His experience covers areas such as software R&D, team building, innovation in large- and small-scale organizations, sales, marketing, and fundraising. After being a startup founder himself, he is now focused on helping corporate innovation teams build great businesses.
Interested in corporate innovation? At HighTechXL we've been working with corporates for the past three years, supporting them to build their businesses. Find out here how we can help you take your company to the next level through innovation and entrepreneurship.