The Popular Myth of Big Companies and Innovation


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I’ve read a lot of material lately about innovation.  There are a number of people who characterize big companies as the following:

Vast wastelands of soul-crushing activity
Focused on status-quo

All of this leads to the inability to innovate.

There are plenty of examples that would support many of these characteristics.  Admittedly, size does make it more challenging to be innovative and agile.  But I would also argue that conventional wisdom is fueled by the size of the target itself.  Having worked at a company of one to a company the size of IBM, my observation is that being small is not the critical determinant for excellence .  I have seen innovation and speed come out of large companies just like small companies.  We shouldn’t kid ourselves.  Smart risk-taking people work in big companies too.  Likewise, I have seen small companies paralyzed by a flat-footed CEO who couldn’t make up his mind or was in over his head.  I have also seen entrepreneurs spin out of large companies go on to create successful companies of innovation based on something they learned at the large company.   

Large companies can commit to innovation and agility in a dynamic world.  It comes down to leadership and culture, not size.      

Republished with author's permission from original post.

John Ryan
Speaker, Author, Marketing, Corporate Communications and Business Development Leader with over 25 years experience in US and international markets. Former Director at Webtrends, VP of Marketing at Tivoli/IBM and VP of Marketing at Siemens. Has helped many start ups and companies who want to go through marketing transformation. Author of the book, "Buyer Steps" in 2011 which is a buyer-centric view of the revenue growth effort.


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