Steve Blank on Maintaining a Culture of Innovation, Part II

steveblank-com-small-photo1 by

Is it possible to maintain a thriving culture of innovation even after you make the move from the startup stage into growth? Silicon valley legend Steve Blank offers his advice in Part II of our interview.

Steve Blank on maintaining a culture of innovation

We were lucky enough to sit down with serial entrepreneur-turned-educator Steve Blank recently to get his take on an incredibly interesting — and important — question: Is it possible for a company to keep its innovative edge once it’s no longer a startup? In Part I of our discussion, Blank explained what makes it so often difficult for companies to maintain a culture of innovation as they begin to scale and move into the expansion stage.

Now in Part II of our interview, he dives into the keys to achieving “continuous innovation,” and why the concept is so critical to the future of corporate development and entrepreneurship.

OpenView: How important is it for founders and newly hired executives to continue to “get out of the building” and interact with customers while the business is in the build/execute stage?

steveblankSteve Blank: If you care about creating a sustainable company, it’s critically important. If you don’t, then go ahead and stay in your office.

This is part of the trap that companies fall into as they go from search to build to execute.

To use an analogy, if you’re extracting coal from a mine and you’re consistently producing the quantity you need to thrive, then it might seem like all of the hard work is done.

But what happens when that mine is fully tapped and there’s no more coal left to extract? If you haven’t continued to look for more resources, you’re screwed.

OV: That really gets to the core of continuous innovation, right?

SB: Absolutely. Competitors, consumer tastes, markets, industries, and just about everything else changes over time. If you don’t relentlessly execute and continuously innovate, then you’re going to stall. Just ask Research in Motion what that feels like.

Companies like RIM, Blockbuster, and Borders are all perfect examples of why you can’t rest on your laurels, regardless of how great things seem to be.

Every business and product has a lifecycle. And while your business or its products won’t become irrelevant over night, they will eventually if you don’t drive and encourage continuous innovation and disruption.

Article continues on the next page: Steve Blank’s 3 Keys to Fostering a Culture of Continuous Innovation