Large organizations and their teams can invest time into many innovative activities including speed dating with startups, meetups, design workshop, inspirations sessions etc. Usually a goal is to find an inspiration, to spot great startups for further collaboration or simply to stay up to date with the tech industry. There is nothing wrong with it.... or there is something wrong?
Let's start with the simple questions - what is the goal of any large company?
It might be to increase profit or / and to grow customers base or / and to raise funds (charity). If so, what are the consequences?
If a company wants to increase profits, it needs to offer a product / service that customers want / have to pay for. If a company wants to grow its customers base, it needs to release new features, new products, new services which people want / need. If a large organization wants to raise charity funds, it needs to prove it is effective in helping people / animals / nature / other organizations.
So what does large organization need speed dating, meetups with startups, design workshop for? Answer is pretty simple, for discovering a product / service or process which is effective and brings results. In my opinion all innovative effort should follow this direction because it keeps business healthy (searching for a right supply and demand which is free market essence).
There is one more important element, in 90%, customers (b2b or b2c) decide if something (product, service, process) presents value (exception could be a drug industry or any regulated industry with government grants). I believe that prototypes, MVPs, beta versions should consider customers feedback and recommendations. Without customers validation any prototype, MVP, beta version is only a stack of assumptions and wishful thinking.
Quite often large organizations focus on workshops, hackathons, creative meetings but forget about empowering its teams to get out of the office and test ideas with customers. Many speed dating, workshops and meetups focus only on a product or process, not many care about customer discovery, customer development, market-fir or problem fit aspects.
Please try next time, before participating speed dating with startups or tech meetup, to ask yourself a question "Has the startup / innovator tested his / hers assumptions with customers?". I think you might be surprise with the results.
Arek Skuza – coFounder of K2 Digital Ventures which helps large companies design and scale innovative ventures with audacity and speed of startups.