Where People Innovate, Companies Complicate

Startups must execute or they are finished–which is why the way they work makes such a great model for companies of any size.

Where People Innovate, Companies Complicate

Designing disruptive, original solutions to existing problems and breakthrough products and solutions in existing markets is hard. Really hard. When we have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s largest brands and most intelligent individuals, we often find that many organizations make the design process more difficult than necessary. They are overly dependent on cumbersome, time-consuming, unmotivating processes with too many uninformed opinions and notions.


To increase the odds of success, a company must think and behave like a startup. When it comes to cracking a problem, begin with placing the most talented, cross-functional team of passionate, focused, and motivated people together. With the problem or challenge crystal clear, let the team decide the best way to go from discovery to execution in the most streamlined manner so they can spend more time on idea development and execution, rather than hours building presentations. Remove as many distracting barriers to success as possible, and set the team up to operate like a determined and hungry start-up.

We are often asked why we work with startups, social entrepreneurs, and not-for-profits. Our answer: they keep us fresh, on our toes, and remind us how and why great ideas become great businesses (or not). Startups are scrappy and inspire the daylights out of my team, reminding us daily that innovation is hard, that it’s messy and it’s not just about a process, but instead about passionately and persistently trying to solve a problem. It’s the maniacal focus on execution, and the fortitude to overcome mistakes and failures because their lives depend on it. While process and group input are important within organizations, sometimes the amount of time, people and road blocks that are put in front of innovation teams is what kills great ideas early and slows their execution. Startups must execute or they are finished. This relentless persistence of “get it done” is the fuel in our tank that we use with our global clients every day, and have affectionately termed–Get Stuff Done.

By directly asking our clients and their innovation teams what can be simplified, we have been able to help large companies streamline their process significantly. It’s important to step back and evaluate what works, what needs simplifying, what can be streamlined, and always be open to change. Putting a sense of urgency, energy and competition into the innovation process sharpens mind and the iron. To initiate your teams into thinking like a startup, here are the five simple GSD principles we follow:

1.What’s the problem?
Clearly state the problem you’re trying to solve, and the opportunity you’re charged with uncovering. Put this is into a clear, single page project brief that can easily be shared with all teams involved.

2.Who’s your daddy?
Choose a highly-motivated, cross-functional team and brief them on the problem they’re tasked with solving.

3.What is success?
Set clear expectations with a project brief, timeline and a definition of success. Also, create an incentive-based performance bonus structure for achieving the goal.


4.What do you need?
Determine the critical resources the team needs to solve the problem at hand. What do you currently have, and what’s missing that is a necessity?

5.Get to it.

[Image: Flickr user Campbell Orme]

About the author

Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Sony, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, Kashi, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision.