07/30/2013 11:02 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2013

Entrepreneurs Have a Role Even in Established Companies

One of this week's Aspen Global Leadership Network Action Workshops will focus on, which is a platform for connecting networks of entrepreneurs around the world with established companies, so both can be more successful than either can be alone. is igniting a global movement of creative people developing big ideas that make the world a better place on a scale never before possible.

Founders starting a company are often passionate, tenacious people seeking to make the world a better place. They have lots of flexibility in designing their business around distinctively solving a customer's problem. Initially the founders' informed intuition helps them navigate through the ambiguity of little data about a market that doesn't yet exist. They attract their first customers, they make investments in facilities and technology, and they hire employees. The company's fly wheel begins to spin faster and faster as it finds success in the marketplace. An early entrepreneurial discovery process is replaced by operationally excellent, data driven system and processes, so the company can execute on a much greater scale than in its early days.

Over time, the company loses the flexibility it once had and can only provide solutions that fit its culture, systems and processes. When someone suggests an out-of-the-box idea, executives find it very difficult to implement the idea inside the existing business even if they want to.
It is in the interest of all established companies to proactively seek to discover and engage entrepreneurs with informed intuition about emerging markets. The risk of not looking for new insights about emerging markets is that a new upstart disrupts not only a leading company but an entire industry, as industry after industry has experienced.

Because emerging ideas develop through serendipitous connections made by the founders, it is impossible to predict on the front whether and how successful an early company will be. An established company will likely be more successful discovering a network of emerging ideas aligned with its priorities and watching them develop over time, because it is much more likely that a winner will emerge from a network than it is that any given emerging company will succeed.