New program teaches big business to think like a startup

Melbourne-based co-working space Queens Collective is launching a new school for innovation, dubbed Collective Campus, which is aimed at giving large companies tips from the startup sector.

The aim of the new program, which will provide a series of initial workshops in areas such as the lean startup business development method, design thinking, and agile software development, is to help large companies retain their competitive edge by behaving like startups.

“We want to help more mature companies innovate like startups,” said Hotdesk founder and Collective Campus co-founder Steve Glaveski. “Companies like Netflix and Uber are disrupting powerful incumbents through business model innovations that break new ground and redefine entire markets.

“Large companies tend to concentrate on an established, repeatable business model. The traditional thinking and practice that underpins this focus does not support the discovery of new business models and markets, which is key to disruptive innovation,” he said.

Glaveski draws upon the case of iconic film giant Kodak to highlight the necessity for large enterprises, no matter how established, to remain on the front foot when it comes to innovation in order to avoid being “disrupted” by new technology and more agile and often much smaller companies.

In 2012, 126-year-old imaging solutions company Eastman Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after its core business offering, analogue imaging products such as film and print paper, was displaced by burgeoning digital imaging technology.

The irony behind the company’s demise was that Kodak itself had invented the core technology behind the digital imaging market, which began to chew into its legacy business in the late 1990s.

In fact, in a bid to raise funds after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Kodak ended up selling more than 1,000 of its patents to Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other companies that had been using its technology for years via licencing deals, effectively deeming its traditional business model obsolete.

Glaveski wants to help large companies in Australia avoid the same pitfalls that Kodak stumbled into while clinging onto its traditional business model and product portfolio to the detriment of its own evolution in the increasingly fast-moving technology industry.

“That same story is told across many different industries, where large companies refuse to invest in disruptive innovations because the current market for those innovations are small, their current customers have no need for them, therefore they’re ignored until they become good enough for the mainstream, and at that point the cost structure of the incumbent is far too high to play at that disruptive innovation level, and then eventually get gobbled up,” Glaveski told ZDNet.

While some of Australia’s largest home-grown companies such as Telstra have been working to build more innovation into their businesses and adopt a startup-inspired agile approach to aspects of an otherwise unwieldy business structure, Glaveski believes that small-scale startup-styled projects within large enterprises often result in short-term or incremental results.

Glaveski hopes that Collective Campus’ initial workshop subject areas will begin to help large companies move beyond incremental developments by taking up startup teachings on a company-wide basis.

According to Glaveski, these initial subject areas were developed after lengthy consultation with representatives from the local startup community. They will be joined by additional topics, with further industry consultation expected to throw up other relevant areas of learning.

“I imagine that over the next six months to 12 months, our product will evolve, and I think that’s what we’re about,” he said. “We’re all about emergent strategy.”

April 28, 2023