Innovation Within Bureaucracy

Overcome Bureaucracy

Many of us who work within large bureaucratic organizations feel innovation is impossible. Too often ideas are shot down quickly due to multiple reasons. Worse, the fear of risk, i.e., loss, overshadows the desire to win. This internal mindset creates a culture focused on incremental changes rather than radical innovations.


The New Corporate Garage

Scott D. Anthony, in his Harvard Business Review article The New Corporate Garage ( identified four eras of innovation. The first era consisted of lone inventors such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Era two was based around corporate labs at AT&T and Bell. The third era was the beginning of VC-backed start-ups. Anthony notes we are in a fourth era focused on corporate catalysts. This is great news for those wanting to innovate within large organizations, but feel it is impossible and eventually give up. These people either accept the culture and stay, or leave. Too often creative people leave resulting in valuable resources moving to a competitor.

The fourth era illustrates how only large corporations can create true innovation due to resources, networks, and often autonomy. Individuals can often gather a tribe of like-minded individuals to drive a project to inception. Once senior leadership sees the potential, the project can become official and then valuable resources can be devoted to its success. Having an entrepreneurial mindset, understanding the culture and organizational landscape can allow amazing innovations to grow. It just takes a lot of drive and not giving up. Basically what it takes for any entrepreneurial adventure.

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Entrepreneurs will still create amazing innovations such as Facebook, Google, and Uber. However, for those within large organizations, innovation can be created in many places. Product, customer, business model and many other innovations are opportunities within large firms. Realizing all the internal (and external) resources at your disposal can result in some amazing and motivational work. Don’t give up, you can drive amazing change with patience, perseverance, and creativity. Good luck.