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Agile In Acceleration: Driving Innovation From Within

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Yvonne Sum | Today's Manager

To drive innovation from within so as to remain agile, we must be willing to embrace failure, experiment small, launch early, and encourage independence.,%202018/Agile.jpg


"In order to successfully innovate in today’s world, companies must figure out how to be big and fast by combining the entrepreneurial mentality of a start-up with the deep pockets and relative stability of a large organisation. Being able to drive innovation from within not only effectively utilises often untapped internal capability, but also increases the speed of change through constant attention, as opposed to external consultants who often attract ‘peaks and troughs’ results.

Start-ups are known for being quick and nimble in the face of rapid change. By the time an organisation scales enough to have the resources it needs to push innovative ideas to market, it has typically lost the flexibility and speed it once had. This is primarily caused by people or processes who start to ‘get stuck’ as the game changes.

Most innovations in the early days of start-ups were Web-based. These were easy to run and fund with a few people. Many of the innovations happening today are rooted in the physical world (think self-driving cars and checkout-free brick-and-mortar stores) and require much bigger investments and highly skilled people—money and talent that start-ups may not have.

Organising for the Age of Urgency
How do we manage the urgency imperative to innovate at speed? Mr Jeff Bezos highlights making not just “high-quality” decisions but “high-velocity” decisions. They go hand-in-hand. “Most decisions,” writes Mr Bezos, “should probably be made with somewhere around 70 per cent of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90 per cent, in most cases you’re probably being slow.” Choosing not to fail fast comes at a price. “If you’re good at course correcting,” Mr Bezos continues, “being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”

To help you increase your chances of success in driving innovation from within and to activate more innovative behaviour from your team, growth strategist Dr Kaihan Krippendorff and the Outthinker team sought to lay out the unique path of the intrapreneur. In each of the 120+ interviews conducted, with internal innovators across the US, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Pacific, we asked a similar set of questions: (a) what are the key barriers you have faced in pursuing entrepreneurial ideas from within an organisation? and (b) what are the solutions you have found to get around those barriers?

The Seven Barriers Hindering Intrapreneurial Intensity
The exercise revealed seven barriers that most often hinder intrapreneurial efforts.

These seven barriers represent the path that successful intrapreneurs pursue on their journey from desiring to do something different to realising the success of an idea. They first adopt the right mindset, hence they look for opportunities. They understand what kinds of ideas their organisation is most likely to embrace (seeking strategically). They then generate various disruptive ideas (ideation). They get permission to experiment on those ideas by embracing emerging approaches to minimise experimentation costs. They then cleverly design the business model around the idea so that it will disrupt their competition without disrupting their business and simultaneously manage the politics to build a groundswell of support. With the support in place, they implement new scaling approaches that enable their team to move rapidly, even when their organisation is not geared for speed.

While companies like Google and Apple have struggled with this approach, Amazon has figured out the secret steps to innovating and experimenting like a start-up.

1. Embrace Failure
By accepting failure as an inevitable part of the road to success, Amazon has created an environment in which people are not afraid to speak up when inspiration strikes. “I know examples where a random Amazon engineer mentions ‘Hey I read about an idea in a blog post, we should do that’,” said startup expert and author Mr Eric Ries. “The next thing he knows, the engineer is being asked to pitch it to the executive committee. Mr Jeff Bezos decides on the spot.”

2. Experiment Small
When an idea is brought to the table, Amazon creates a small team to work the idea and determine if it is feasible. According to Mr Ries, the team gets limited resources and is tasked with a clear objective. If the team is successful, it is allowed to expand.

3. Launch Early
Once an idea is shown to have promise, Amazon launches it externally so paying customers can try it out as quickly as possible. This prevents Amazon from potentially spending years developing something internally that would only fail when launched to the public.

4. Encourage Independence
Mr Bezos encourages teams to work independently of each other, using whatever processes or technologies they need to bring the idea to life. There are no enforced standards they must conform to, or Amazon-specific tools or technologies they must embrace. This removal of limitations allows Amazon’s innovators to essentially do whatever they need to make their ideas successful.

So, how are you driving innovation from within to remain agile in acceleration?


Balakrishnan A, 12 April 2017. Bezos shareholder letter: Don’t let the world push you into becoming a ‘Day 2’ company, CNBC, Accessed via
Outthinker, 23 January 2018. How the 100-Year-Old Uber of Apparel is Thriving with Platform Business, Accessed via
Sum Y, 2013. Intentional Parenting: How to get Results for both you and your Kids. Random House Australia, Sydney.
Sum Y, 2010. Tribal Insights of Sales Leaders. Emerging Trends in Professional Selling Vol. 1, 10, 247-272. Trend Business Publishing.
Sum Y, 2010. Learning Partnerships with Children, Inspired Children, 10, 199-213. University of Sydney Press.
Thammaneewong R, Sum Y, 2014. The Urgent Case for a Global Mind-set. Emerging Trends in Leadership & Strategy Vol. 1, 6, 186-221.



Dr Sum is an Associate Trainer with SIMPD and she conducts Agile in Acceleration: Outthink & Outperform your Competitors on 16-17 July 2018. Please contact Kathleen Tan @ 62489407/ for enquiries.


Dr Yvonne Sum, CSP draws executives deep into their inner essence to make timely changes in their hyper-changing world. She is a published international author on leadership and strategy that crosses the contexts of both home and work. As co-founder of a global leadership consultancy focussing on C-level executives, Dr Sum is sought after by executive decision makers to hyper-drive their ‘next practice’ skills to engage their hidden genius to thrive in acceleration and be future-ready.


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