Where Innovators and Entrepreneurs Intersect

Autonomy, liberty, divergence are innovation drivers, but are they opposite to management rules? In other words, “Can innovation or innovative design be managed?” asks Gilles Garel in his “Innovation Chair” speech.

Management science is the way to lead a collective action, by setting up an efficient framework for teamwork. As innovation is a collective adventure, it can definitely benefit from management: innovation can be managed!

What are then the commonalities between business management in the creative stage initiatives, entrepreneurship, and innovation management? Are there some personality traits that are shared by innovators and entrepreneurs?

Innovators and entrepreneurs are leaders

As both have to drive their team to the direction of success, innovators and entrepreneurs share leader characters:

  • They rely on a granite-like belief, a persistant but not blind self confidence, that they turn into inspiration to their followers, committed and passionate. “True innovators want to change people’s life”as Marc Giget claims!
  • Innovators and entrepreneurs know they can’t make it alone: they act as team leader, their time is dedicated to make their team rise the challenge, to develop autonomy, a self-initiative and risk-taking culture. Definitely hands on, true entrepreneurs and innovators foster the emergence of co-leaders.

Some take their leader responsibility very seriously, they behave as humanist entrepreneur: “Everything we do is about getting people to be more open, more creative, more courageous” states  Jack Dorsey, Twitter cofounder and Square founder.

Mixing their belief with their role to inspire, entrepreneurs become storytellers elaborates Jack in the “Golden gate” video. Entrepreneurs and innovators are telling a story of which the product is the hero: “Product is what we’re telling our customers, presenting one cohesive story to the world. As CEO, my main job is editor-in-chief,” Dorsey says.

Sometimes, the leader is the best qualified, “handling an intimate form of expertise” as Thomas Paris, professor at HEC Business School, suggests.

Mostly, he distinguishes by his natural leadership, the way he sets the direction, a clear direction that everyone embraces, leading by his courage to face the unknown of creation and uncertainty of entrepreneurship.

They are the opposite of egocasting and fuzziness

There is some kind of “ego casting” going on in fake leaders and innovators, a fuzziness in the vision and direction set, and a hands off attitude: “I give you the headlines, you will work out the details”. As a result, they work solitary, like goldfish in its round bowl.

Some even act as innovation killers:

  • they don’t listen: they are the only ones who can read the future;
  • they ensure that only themselves are talking to the upper level, and at the same time, they short circuit team leadership;
  • they take the benefit, not the risk.

Far from tis, true innovators and entrepreneurs are surprisingly modest, their cleverness speaks for themself. You can listen to them without being looked down, you understand clearly what they mean: it might be harder to try later to explain their concept yourself!

They care for customer design, and collaborative platform

Two dimensions of innovation management have emerged in the recent years that innovators and entrepreneurs have carved in their DNA: customer experience design, and collaborative platform.

  • Customer experience design is about creating a comprehensive positive experience for the customer with your service or product. Customers often do not want the product itself, but rather the effect that the product produces so sharpen the effect you’re looking for through design thinking, iterative loop and elimination of superfluities! Customer experience design supports product acceptance, turning early adopters into evangelists, and sets the fundation for  brand values. Before the start-up has secured a business model, it will develop the largest use of its service: customer design is here for that.
  • Collaborative platform and ecosystem are about building engagement, letting others build value on top of your platform, thinking innovation not only at the product level, but also shaping a creative extended business model: a leadership platform. Innovation management and entrepreneurship from now on take action to include customers, partners, competitors, and guide collective intelligence towards creative design.

To unleash cooperation and refine customer experience, entrepreneurs and innovators willingness to seek the truth is the triger.

One shares, when the other one sells

But innovators and entrepreneurs have different focus because their ultimate goals are separate:

  • Innovator is focused on creative design: he handles continuous loop from concept to knowledge through experimentation, expanding both spaces simultaneously. Gilles Garel explains how the Swatch design and engineering team once initiated a new wrist watch concept, had to seek knowledge in the plasturgy field in order to manufacture it; once the plastic weld, the watch could not be repaired: they had to go to the concept space, imagining a “zero default” operating watch, adapting the watch architecture, reducing the number of components, removing after-sales service.
  • Entrepreneur has to deal with a wider range of functions and tasks: one of those roles might well be innovator, others are surely about market and sell. As Zeke Camusio puts it:They assume it’s possible so they shift their thinking from whether it can be done to HOW it can be done.” Marketing successfully your innovation requires a strong focus on go-to-market approach, stressing impact on one proeminent direction, perseveringly delivering faithful messages to a broad audience: customers, employees, partners, and shareholders. “Passion is really important, but you also need to make money”, so “entrepreneurs know their numbers (costs, revenues, break-even point, balance sheet and P&L) adds Zeke.

Both are disciplined in the methodology prevailing in their world. There is nothing like a look at Jack Dorsey’s agenda to prove it better: “All my days are themed. Monday is management. Tuesday is product, engineering, and design. Wednesday is marketing, growth, and communications. Thursday is partnership and developers. Friday is company and culture. It works in 24-hour blocks.”

When roads separate

In the long term, while innovators use continuous creation cycles to rise innovative design and craft acceptance, meeting social imagineries, entrepreneurs develop and grow a company. It entails a wide course of actions including acquisition and merger, globalisation, diversification, reputation actions, far away from innovation tasks.

Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled” as for HBS professor Howard Stevenson’s definition, goind beyond the boundaries of innovation.

Innovators design an identity for its innovation, turning novelty into tradition. Entrepreneurs shape a company’s identity.

Credits: cal.pnca.edu, courtesy companye, wineland.co.za

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future of TV - Leading by InnovatingNicolas Bry is a Senior VP at Orange. He’s developed strong expertise in innovation management, creating digital business units with international challenges. He completed a professional thesis on rapid innovation at HEC Business School.

Nicolas Bry

Serial innovator, Nicolas has set up creative units for new business at Orange, Club-Internet, and SFR. Nicolas created crowd platform Imagine.Orange.com, Orange Studio for Intrapreneurs, and edits Open Innovation blog RapidInnovation.fr. International speaker, entrepreneurs & startups coach, innovation teacher at Telecom ParisTech, HEC & CentraleSupélec, and freelance consultant (ECC). Follow him at @nicobry.




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No Comments

  1. Steve on April 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

    This is a theme that has a lot of ground to explore, and it’s great to see a post that starts that exploration.
    Looking at your Venn diagram, it’s a great way to visualize some of the key elements that these two groups of people share/don’t share. I think, though, that some of the themes are more commonalities than differences. Take “Iterative Prototyping” and “Business Modeling”, for example. If you look at a lot of the recent literature on start-ups, like “The Lean Entrepreneur” by Eric Ries and “Getting to Plan B” by Randy Komisar and John Mullins, they explain business modeling as just that – iterative prototyping. There are a lot of unknowns when first taking a product or service to market that are best fleshed out through prototyping rather than with a fixed plan.
    However, I definitely agree that there is a time “when roads separate”. Maybe it would be useful to break innovation and entrepreneurship down into their main phases, and compare activities/qualities/tools that are useful in each? This way we might be able to identify some tools from each area that would enrich the other, and by seeing the differences be able to understand more clearly how and why those tools and qualities that work do.

  2. Nicolas Bry on April 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Thank for your feedback. I share your view: at early stage entrepreneur tasks might well include a lot of innovator tasks, like bringing the innovative concept to the product stage, ready to go to market.
    I would definitely be useful to further analyse how innovator and entrepreneur differentiate along the road, as time goes by and the company keeps growing.

  3. Loic Colodrón on April 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    This is a subject a feel passionate about.
    Really interesting stuff. My point of view here is that this intersection may be bigger or smaller. In fact, there are many cases where both circle are just one. The point is, if within a person he may behave different when thinking as an innovator or thinking as an entrepreneur or not.

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