Big companies, small ideas: Thriving in an entrepreneurial world

With the growing entrepreneurial popularity of co-working communal work spaces, could bigger firms learn something from the entrepreneurial spirit of start-ups and small businesses who champion these new innovative ways of working?

Facebook was famously founded by 19 year-olds; Google began as a research project; and the name Alibaba emerged from a chat in a coffee shop. If big companies could adopt some of the creative thinking associated with start-ups, especially in the tech sector, they would find more of the elusive magic that fuels innovation.

But how do they do that? You can’t just tell people to be creative, but you can build an environment to encourage and support creativity. By setting up incubators for entrepreneurs on your premises, for example, you can help inject innovative spirit.

Other companies, meanwhile, choose to mentor start-ups and help them with cash. Funding projects that take place with their service providers is another route, whilst some big companies are even partnering with ‘proptech’ companies to co-create solutions.

The majority of organisations will take one of these paths. The ‘Fifth Industrial Revolution’ will centre on Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, deep learning and advanced robotics. Established organisations cannot afford to fall behind in the development of products and solutions and must be equally ready for rapid prototyping.

That is why adopting an innovative entrepreneurial mindset can help big organisations to compete against innovative fast movers.

Understanding your people is key to the survival of any company – even a large one. Creativity appears to flourish best when individuals are trusted, managed with a light touch and treated in an egalitarian fashion. There are many ways organisations can make this happen: by creating a working environment that stimulates creativity, empowers teams to make the best use of a collaboration space, and ultimately helps them fulfil their professional and personal aspirations.

Open plan offices, for instance, are a demonstration of equality, transparency and visibility. Giving people access to functional, modular space, lets them control their environment. High-quality furnishing, great in-house coffee and free yoga classes are some of the already existing examples at companies of all sizes.

Overarching all of this is the need for HR and real estate managers to work together to create a wholesome, healthy and stimulating human experience at work. The innovation that really matters here is one that goes beyond use of IT, through people and into the soft skills of workers and team by providing a rich environment that caters for the different personality types that will use it.

Here, coworking is a great example. Whether it be through internal open coworking hubs, which enable employees from big companies to rub shoulders with employees from start-ups, or by providing employees with access to external shared spaces, coworking can help encourage the flow of ideas, creativity and new ways of thinking.

By combining forces and carefully thinking through how the workplace can bring it all together, big companies and small teams of entrepreneurs can thrive and create the big ideas that so often emerge from the coffee shop.

Dr Marie Puybaraud is global head of research at JLL

Owen Gough

Owen Gough

Owen Gough is a reporter for He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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