In today’s world, start-ups aren’t the only ones who can innovate. As I discussed in my post How Big Companies Can Save Innovation, large companies are now better positioned to innovate than ever before. Here’s why: the innovation revolution spurred by venture capitalists decades ago has created the conditions in which scale allows big companies to shift from shackling innovation to unleashing it.
There are three trends are behind this shift:
- The ease of innovation and its decreasing cost mean that start-ups now face the same short-term pressures that have constrained innovation at large companies.
- Taking a page from start-up strategy, large companies are embracing open innovation and integrating entrepreneurial behaviors with their existing capabilities.
- Innovation increasingly involves creating business models that tap big companies’ unique strengths.
In this context, “corporate catalysts” — entrepreneurially-minded people inside corporates — are working with corporations’ resources, scale, and growing agility to develop innovative solutions to global challenges.
Consider Medtronic’s innovative effort Healthy Heart for All. Medtronic is as far from a start-up as one can imagine: Founded in the late 1940s, it is today the world’s largest stand-alone medical device manufacturer, with $16 billion in revenue, and is best known for its implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. The Healthy Heart program seeks to bring pacemaker technology to hundreds of thousands of Indians who desperately need it.
In late 2010 I visited The Mission Hospital (TMH) in Durgapur, a modest town by Indian standards (population about 1 million), nestled in India’s northeast corner, near Bangladesh. During my visit I saw a pilot of Medtronic’s innovative business model in action. The company had drawn on pioneering Indian health care models, such as Aravind Eye Care System‘s affordable cataract care, to help TMH design new ways to serve low-income patients.
Scott D. Anthony is managing director of Innosight Asia-Pacific.