The terms “entrepreneurship” and “innovation” often suggest start-ups and bright minds creating far-out technology. Yet, within the dynamic world of business, especially here in our corner of the world, these terms can be artificially restrictive. Especially when used in relation to established organisations. For me, one of the most exciting places to be is the point at which innovation meets established organisations. That intersection provides an unparalleled opportunity to think very differently about challenges and opportunities that arise.
Put simply, entrepreneurship revolves around new ventures, while innovation is broader and can include shaping novel solutions or refining existing ones within businesses. If we visualise this relationship as a Venn diagram, there would certainly be an overlap, but for me the differences are most interesting.
Entrepreneurs dive in deep – dedicating all their energy, resources, and 100% of their focus to their novel ventures. They can carry a significant risk to personal income and financial security, but tend to be travellers journeying light, unburdened by the baggage of established business operations.
Put simply, entrepreneurship revolves around new ventures, while innovation is broader and can include shaping novel solutions
On the other hand, innovation in established businesses is more akin to choreographing an intricate dance. In this world, the responsibilities and demands of day-to-day operations clash with the desire to innovate. Where would we get the time? How can we justify the spend? It’s hard to maintain the balance between innovation and the demands for consistency, quality, and security from our clients, staff, and shareholders. Innovators must cope with uncertainty and resource constraints while contending with internal dynamics and politics that often do not ‘get’ innovation.
In this landscape, innovation requires us to focus on sometimes contradictory agenda – we must find ways to secure buy-in, untangle existing systems, and implementing meaningful change while keeping the wheels of the business turning smoothly.
In my experience, whilst internal innovations rarely grab the headlines, innovation in established businesses can be more challenging than the journey undertaken by entrepreneurs. So how can we innovate without jeopardising the security and sustainability of the organisation?
For established businesses, especially those that have been around for generations, carving out time to think differently becomes crucial.
Something as simple as having a weekly slot in the diary dedicated to looking forward can be the key to unlocking new horizons. Imagine having lunch with your team and discussing the future, ignoring, even for an hour, the day-to-day minutiae. This time can fuel the innovation engine, pushing your team toward long-term goals and future-oriented strategies.
To give this diarised time focus, ensure you have an idea of where innovation could take you, a vision of what good could look like for your business in three, five or even ten years’ time. If you’re an established leader looking to usher in innovation but grappling with the challenge of reconciling the time and effort require, do reach out. It can be useful to bounce a few ideas around over a cup of coffee.
To address the environmental, political, and economic challenges we’re all facing, everyone must play their part, and we need to get to the point where innovation is everyone’s responsibility and no not the domain of start-ups. Innovation enables established businesses to flourish, grow, and evolve. It’s a journey worth taking, and with the right strategies, can yield remarkable results.