If you had not noticed a start-up growing within your organization, take a deep look and you will probably find quite a few striving to get their moorings firmly grounded against the tide of conformism that sweeps across the daily habits of teams and processes.
A start-up within an organization is the one which is coming up with a new idea which has only a fraction of a chance of surviving against the multitude of already proven ways of doing things day in and day out.
Think of the safety supervisor who is toiling hard to find out why the last accident happened with the Forklift Truck and the overwhelming consensus works against his alternate hypothesis that there was nothing wrong with the driver; he is still toying with the extremely low probability event that there is a fleeting chance that the path of the FLT and the Crane could be in each other’s blind spot while the mast could be touching the low cabin of the crane.
This supervisor is like that start up on a ledge, there is mounting opposition that his idea lacked reason.
Exactly like a failed start up, he could fail to convince that the mounting evidence was inadequate and it is just that the availability heuristic is strongly working against accepting the one single evidence that actually matters.
This is almost like the O-ring failure of the Challenger disaster, which actually was pointed out by some start-ups within but the NASA organizational culture at that time worked against it (as discovered by the Rogers Commission).
It would take one more accident or several others over many long years to actually demonstrate that the supervisor had a point.
Or think of the design engineer who is almost through with his experiment that proves that air brakes work differently under severe temperature conditions and there is a need for temperature compensation for safety reasons. The world would descend on this discovery as it would cost the company several millions to make that correction.
This design start-up would fail against the tide of counter-evidence that the actual number of accidents is infinitesimally small to warrant any sobering adjustment on the temperature compensation factor.
But have you ever seen the number of “recalls” that car manufacturers make to administer to fix things from brakes to air bags to mundane things like seat belts? It is just that they realize only too late that the start-ups within their organizations actually predicted that event long time back.
The start-ups within your organization are the ones that are brewing a new idea, or bouncing a hypothesis, testing a prototype or toying with a full-fledged production run with new parameters never attempted before.
Something that had never been attempted before is where the start up within faces the maximum opposition. It may not be without a reason as fear of failure is one single factor that pervades the thinking process.
The chances of a new idea to succeed is also that much low to foster confidence in the new idea. This is the perennial conflict that internal start-ups have to contend with.
There is actually no difference between those start-ups in the garages of Palo Alto and those that are at handshaking distance from you when you visit your factories or offices. Whether as individuals or as groups every moment some new idea is mushrooming, only to be confronted by the tides of conformity that must do a reality check day in and day out.
This drill for all you know could be very right for all the wrong reasons and also very wrong for all the good reasons. But the best ideas that transform may not always come from conformance of top-down themes.
There must be a way how this must play out to the best outcomes. Some companies have a culture of competing ideas on similar topics, where work groups would vie for a space.
Here rivalry is actually allowed to the best interests of the organization as without competition it is never possible for the best to emerge.
This is exactly similar to the harsh world of start-ups outside that is trying to compete with thousands of others in an open no-holds barred environment.
Both need sponsorship to succeed, not always financial, as the allowance needed for success would ordain far too many chances of failures.
The true entrepreneurial spirit always can weed out the ordinary from the extra ordinary idea; the one that would make it to the hall of fame is not always going to be the one standing out in the open shining to be discovered.
We need to be entrepreneurial in our approach in terms of gauging these start-ups; we must act like sponsors who have a penchant for accommodating failures.
This is how great companies make their internal start-ups succeed.
The companies who do not need ‘recalls’ are the ones who are doing this better, as they have allowed their internal failure costs to rise much to the demands of the internal start-up teams.
These organizations are safer, more customer friendly and close loop problem solvers.
Let such hundred start-ups bloom within your organization. Give them some chance to fail.