February 25, 2015

Rise of corporate entrepreneurs and innovations

Ahmad Qureshi

Head of Technology and Foresight, Tieto

You don’t have to be an entrepreneur in order to feel ownership over something you started. Rather, I believe you can feel the same amount of ownership in the corporate world. This startup culture is what we are building towards with our innovation program Tieto SPARK!

We need new innovations and businesses faster than ever. Building a successful business inside the corporate world is nothing new. However, thanks to business and digital transformation, the environment is now different. Companies in our modern era should invest in catering to building new businesses even more since idea to success cycle is quicker than before. For many businesses, this is a large cultural change; to others, it might feel like a shock. The ones who embrace this change will prevail, others could vanish.

I believe that in the future instead of buying startups, companies should think about collaborating in the ecosystems and in many cases grow their own businesses, through corporate innovations.

How can companies achieve this? Corporate cultures have to change.

  1. Create and collect ideas. When there are no ideas, nothing positive happens. This is why companies need to create an environment where ideas are collected and quickly reviewed. While ideas are being generated, however, it's vital to keep company guidelines in place. This means also a culture where creative ideas are embraced and experimented.
  2. Create strong teams. Great teams consist of people who can push things forward. They can spin bad ideas into gold. This is why many investors prefer to invest in teams instead of individuals. Companies need a sturdy system for finding (and even creating) successful teams.
  3. Provide support from the management. Innovation programs often can collapse because they don't have enough management support. Management is responsible for investing in creative and brave ideas, business alignment and sustainably keep the ball rolling. While they must be bold enough to embrace experimentation and “fail fast” culture.
  4. Reward corporate entrepreneurs. Reward must be understood much more than a monetary sum. Companies can help their employees to take their dream and built it into reality. There has to be a system for sharing the learnings and opportunity.

Unfortunately, there are many ways to destroy a great team with a golden idea. Any new businesses and ideas need to be aligned with the corporate innovation strategy. New teams need to share a similar culture as well. This often happens when a team is brought in from outside the company and can’t fit into their new corporate culture. Grabbing a team that's already operating in that company could serve as a solution to this challenge.

From a startup company's point of view, they mostly want to build something quickly and sell it at the same speed. I think this is an unsustainable model. I believe that when people have a vision, they should stick to it and not abandon it. That's why we're moving on to the next wave of the entrepreneurial world. Instead of creating startups of this kind, we should build entrepreneurship within companies that build a new type of ecosystems. This is the path corporations should take. This way, talented and enthusiastic individuals will be attracted and able to shine.

I have been running our new innovation program Tieto SPARK!, and I believe we can build new business candidates to grow and make a difference. We have a lot of talented people inside Tieto as well as our ecosystem. We are not afraid to help our talent to grow and succeed. We aim to lead this towards creating successful corporate entrepreneur ecosystem.

Ahmad is the Head of Technology & Foresight at Tieto. You can find him on LinkedIn.

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