Act More Like Startups. They Only See the Future.

This post is by LinkedIn influencer Meabh Quoirin, MD, Future Foundation

As the Managing Director of the Future Foundation, I spend a lot of my time thinking about the level of disruption we can expect in the future. For clients, the day job has always been to bring to life the future consumer and to help solidify existing business plans. This is changing, however, and at an unrecognisable pace. We can see that consumer needs are changing so quickly that the way in which we need to inspire has dramatically and irreversibly altered. From citing leading corporate innovations or trends in action, we now need to offer a close track on disruptive innovations from startups.

Put simply – we are not living in a normal economy any more – we are living the innovation economy.

This has led to pressure on agility for ourselves as well as our clients, and we’ve chosen to confront the pace of change with a total realignment of internal investment priorities, culminating so far in a new service, nVest Ventures. If we are truly to embrace, and credibly advise our clients on the innovation economy, we must lead by example, which for us has meant building our own FF enterprise model dedicated to emerging macro and nano-industries.

nVest Ventures is a playbook to help corporations regain their status as innovation leaders by getting to know their competition, i.e. startups. In other words, it’s a legal version of the St. Louis Cardinals hacking into the Astros playbook — know the competition and learn how to beat them.

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So what have we learnt? Beyond getting to know the competition, here are three more ways corporate can become leaders in innovation. Not just to copy, but to become leaders once again.

Step 1 – Stay sharp and nimble. Although consumers respect brands with heritage, declining trust in big institutions, like banks or corporate giants, combined with the consumer’s desire for the best choices have made consumers more promiscuous. Change and choice in terms of products and crucially relationships – i.e. new business model is the new mantra, whether you’re in B2B or B2C.

Step 2 – Build an innovation army by nurturing internal talent. The best way to win is by equipping your staff with easy access to experiment. Nurture a culture of constant innovation. The most innovative startups allow every employee to pitch new ideas. Google’s well-known beta model is becoming seriously mainstream.

Step 3 – Forget the past, focus on the future. Startups have no past, they only see the future. When startups set up their business model and offerings, they use the most up-to-date technology, software and hardware to deliver the most innovation options. Companies don’t necessarily have the freedom to think without any strings attached, but that doesn’t mean established companies cannot think of ways to innovate using the latest technological tools. The pace of innovation in technology is faster than a speeding bullet – but it’s technology that is opening doors to better products and services that are better meeting consumer needs and thus the most attractive to consumers.    

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If you work for a corporation and are reaching for that Prozac, don’t do it just yet. There’s a rainbow after the storm of industry change. We are living in a boom, an innovation economy boom. It’s not the enemy, it spells endless opportunity. But it requires companies to be even more aware of their customers, aware of their competition both near and far and it requires companies to stay nimble in thought and action. If you stay true to those tenets, you can regain leadership in innovation, recruit the best human talent, and most importantly see your profits soar.

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