You Can’t Go Alone – Effectively Engaging in Ecosystems Outside The Walls of Your Organization

Expert: Terry HowertonCurator: Paul Hobcraft

Terry Howerton, serial entrepreneur, investor, CEO of TechNexus, a venture collaborative that finds, funds & grows tech ventures aligned with large enterprises. @terryhowerton @technexus

00 // Intro

01 // What’s the key role for the intrapreneur in the current fast-changing landscape?

02 // How to best operate at the intersection of the mothership and its ecosystems?

03 // How do you build an outside ecosystem that delivers value to the core business?

// Summary

We currently live in one of the most disruptive periods of the global economic history, with more churn among the largest companies and industries happening every day.

Recent stats show that 734 of the companies that appeared in the Fortune 1000 list a decade ago have now disappeared from that list; out of business, or displaced by fast-growing new companies. And there’s no reason to believe the currents are changing. Most top corporate executives believe that as many as half of today’s Fortune 500 companies will be out of business within in 10 years.

With that level of competition, says Terry Howerton, the basic imperative is no longer to innovate to stay ahead – you have to innovate to survive. He sat down with Paul Hobcraft to talk about the inherent role of collaboration, communication and humility in harnessing that innovation.

Stay curious

One of the most common barriers to true innovation, says Terry, is a tendency to focus exclusively on what we do well. If we base innovation on a history of success, we may miss out on making the changes necessary to stay in the competition.

Given the speed at which most industries and companies are now being asked to adapt, no one company or team can single-handedly drive an entire paradigm shift; agile collaboration is key. That means egos need to be checked at the door and switched out for curiosity and respect.

Avoid entrepreneurial tourism

In efforts to kick-start collaboration and get the pulse on all things startup, corporations often head to New York and Silicon Valley to soak in some startup inspiration. While usually well intentioned, Terry says those visits often amount to little more than a metaphorical pet-an-entrepreneur day.

If companies do manage to counter their own predisposition for secrecy and engage enough to establish potential grounds for collaboration, they still struggle to move beyond that initial step of ideation towards the final step of implementation. Everything between steps 1 and 10 remains a mystery for most. This collaboration chasm fosters frustration on both ends, with entrepreneurs struggling to define their next steps and corporations rarely seeing growth or results from the false start.

Build real bridges

One way to establish and structure sustainable collaboration, says Terry, is to turn to a Force Multiplier: someone at the nexus of large enterprise and entrepreneurs who understands both sides, can create space for alignment and provide added value.

He also encourages clients to shift their focus away from individual consultants and experts, and instead tap into the startup community by internationally crowd-sourcing information on entrepreneur strategies that might align with their own.

Beyond establishing such external relationships, foster strong bonds between individual innovation initiatives and the core business. No good outpost can exist without efficient communication links to the mainland, says Terry – efforts need to be translatable and actionable for the main company.

“You end up becoming blind to the idea that you might not even be playing the same game or selling the same services five years from now that you’ve done for the last 10 or 20 years.”

How are we doing?

To many, metrics around innovation feel abstract and intangible, and often groups of high-level executives and innovation officers suddenly go quiet when asked how they measure innovation. Track your own progress by asking these simple questions.

Did the company grow?
Were new business avenues explored?
Did we build our client base?
Did we discover potentially interesting new markets, services or products?
Do we feel confident we’re seeing as far ahead and around-the-bend as possible?