CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall (Pictured) is urging big Australian companies to think like entrepreneurs “or else we’ll be standing still in a world that’s moving 20, 30 years ahead of us”.
Dr Marshall, former managing director of Silicon Valley-based Southern Cross Ventures, is a passionate advocate for innovation and Australian entrepreneurs and aired his views in a B&T roundtable with Google CEO Maile Carnegie, who is the guest editor of the next issue, David Kirk, co-founder and managing partner of Bailador and Kate Carnell AO, CEO, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Carnegie held the roundtable to talk about her passions, Australia’s future, digital skills and STEM, and to see if they can give economy and innovation a bit of a nudge to make it move faster.
When she asked the boffins what they would pick out of the DNA of a successful start-up or small business and put into a larger one, Dr Marshall claimed big companies need to think like entrepreneurs, adding that we also “need to think very differently about failure and risk taking.”
“Nothing about the recruiting process, the promotion process or the operating processes of a large company lend themselves to entrepreneurship,” said Dr Marshall. “And if you believe in personality typing analysis, then entrepreneurs are less than one per cent of any population or any western population. I think most of the systems in a traditional corporate probably cull that down even lower.
“You might have the tenth of a per cent or hundredth of a per cent of entrepreneurial spirit in a traditional company. Given the pace of change in the modern world and criticality of innovation and entrepreneurship, companies have really got to change the way they recruit, the way they hire, the way they promote and in particular the way they punish or define failure and they way they punish risk taking. I think if we don’t do that, then we’ll be standing still in a world that’s moving 20, 30 years ahead of us.
Bailador’s Kirk agreed, saying that large global companies, even Google, need to get “laser clear” with their focus, incentives and getting the best people, and then leaving them alone to excel at what they do.
“It is genuine fundamental new business building,” he said, “something new and different that’s going to end up, if they get it right, being really big. And that needs a vision which is, firstly and fundamentally about solving a problem out there somewhere and a fear and understanding of what the stack from go to market, customer acquisition, the economics of all that right through to building the tech stack. And that’s what the best entrepreneurs have got.
“You’re never going to do it without the best people. So you’ve got put them in an environment and give them the incentives, which means they can get on and do what they do as if they weren’t in the corporate, almost. And that invariably means leaving them alone. And then they’ve got to do the start-up thing. Learn to run lean, bootstrapping and basically, fast failure and moving on.”
The full transcript from the roundtable and more offerings from guest editor Maile Carnegie will be in the next issue of B&T out August 13.