Can big companies be radical?

Kieran Levis

Radical innovations almost invariably come from outsiders – revolutionary entrepreneurs whose style, culture and management are inimical to large, stable organisations. Kieran Levis illustrates how these kinds of organisations encourage the kind of divergent thinking that produces dramatic breakthroughs

John Kearon is right that big companies are not good at the kind of innovation that creates new categories and markets, (see Market Leader, Quarter 4, 2010, p20). But the problem is broader than marketing science and the pursuit of short-term shareholder value.

Big companies very rarely sustain the kind of divergent thinking that produces dramatic breakthroughs. They are much better at the convergent thinking and analysis that finds solutions to clearly defined problems, and can be highly effective at incremental improvements to existing products and technologies.