Innovation and entrepreneurship is discussed frequently in boardrooms, start-ups and coffee houses around the globe. Books, blogs and even movies are produced about both of these topics that drive business ideas. What exactly does it mean to be innovative? As a corporate employee, your job description won’t have the words innovation or entrepreneurship written anywhere, and it won’t be documented in human resources as part of your key result area either. So, why is it an unwritten expectation? How do you prepare yourself so that you are fully equipped when you really need to be, in the corporate world, or in a start-up?
Equipped to Excel or Jump Ship
I am intrigued with the thought of how corporate employees become equipped with innovation and entrepreneurship skills. How do they do it, and get to the point of leveraging those talents so they can either excel in their job, or jump ship and start their own company? I was one of those people in my career, and I am still trying to figure out how to harness that creative and intellectual energy so that I can keep it close by when I want to use it.
Ingenuity and Creativity
Most companies would love to figure out how to harness the ingenuity and creativity that ignites the pure passion of an entrepreneurial mind. I believe that a small percentage of corporate employees actually have this, and even a smaller percentage act on it. Is it possible there could be a silver bullet remedy that would solve the innovation dilemma that many companies face today?
Drinking the Corporate Secret Sauce
Recently I read an article on FastCompany.com. They featured the World’s Most Innovative Companies 2013. If you had the opportunity to speak with any of the employees of the companies on the list, you would soon discover they are extremely passionate about the brand they represent. They also think differently than the average corporate employee, almost to a fault, and have completely bought into the corporate mantra. In other words, they totally drink the corporate secret sauce. They may have in fact, help to create it.
Big Ideas and Solving Problems
Let’s say you are an entrepreneur. You probably don’t have a job description, but you definitely have a vision, and a dream to launch your company. I believe an entrepreneur takes pride in being innovative. They typically have a big idea that nobody else has, and they are solving a problem. Is that considered innovation? Does it reveal entrepreneurial qualities?
The Innovation Gene
If we read the news around us, we can see there are start-ups emerging in every industry, with tech probably leading the pack. Entire businesses with full lines of products and services are designed to serve those budding entrepreneurs with the innovation gene. So here’s my question. Does entrepreneurship exist in a person when they work for a company? And if it does, does that same person also have the innovation gene as well? And, does it carryover from corporate job to start-up? Our journey of discovery continues.
Instead of asking more questions, I decided to get some answers. I needed some clarification on the innovation and entrepreneurship concept that is swirling in my head. So, I did some research and came up with a theory that innovation and entrepreneurship can in fact exist in a person when they work for a company, and does carryover beyond the corporate job. David Droga is the perfect example. David is creative chairman of Droga5, #39 on the FastCompany.com list of World’s Most Innovative Companies 2013. I probably could stop here, but we’re going to keep going. Before Droga5 was born in 2006, David was the worldwide creative director for Publicis Worldwide. So, why did he leave such a great job? Well, I could only imagine that Droga5 was brewing inside his head for years, and his entrepreneurship dream was stronger than ever. Finally he started the journey. Today, seven years later, Droga5 in New York, is a top-tier, international agency. Wow. Now, let’s go back to the question. Does Innovation and Entrepreneurship Exist in the Same Person? Maybe. The debate continues.
7,355 Miles to Shanghai
In my quest to continue, I communicated with David Tai, who lives in Shanghai, 7,355 miles from Droga5 in New York. David was on the management team of a Fortune 500 company, IBM. He also worked with a start-up concentrating on innovation and leadership. David focused his efforts in the U.S., Asia and India, and currently is the Director of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), which is founded by the Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing. CKGSB is designed to train world-class entrepreneurs in China. I had the privilege of asking David a question. His response would reflect years of wisdom that young, fledgling entrepreneurs would love to possess.
David, what advice can you give budding entrepreneurs who are currently working for a company, but just can’t seem to make the leap, and believe in themselves and their entrepreneurial vision?
Here’s what David had to say.
I once read that ‘if you are paid to do a job in one company, you are guaranteed that thousands will pay you even more for your expertise’. If you want to be an entrepreneur, what I found successful is to; 1) hone your expertise that are unique in the market place; 2) define a compelling reason and vision to act (this includes defining what your product is); 3) find your first customer to start with or an investor who will give you money and potential customers to start your own business.
David Droga and David Tai, are both great examples of former corporate employees who discovered they have the innovative gene and also followed their entrepreneurial spirit. Both were innovative in their own right, and it paid-off, not only in their corporate career in the US, but internationally as well. So, the million-dollar question is; Does Innovation and Entrepreneurship Exist in the Same Person? You decide.