Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz write about a common barrier to innovation in big companies in their book From Poverty to Prosperity (p. 188):
To control intrapreneuring [development of new ideas within a company], corporations set up bureaucratic filters through which new ideas must pass. The bureaucracy is designed to kill most new ideas, because most new ideas offer poor return on investment. Corporate decisions are made by committees. In a typical committee, no individual has the power to say “yes” to a new project. On the other hand, almost every member of a committee has the power to veto a new project.
Observers of organizational behavior have noted that in committees one is more likely to be regarded as intelligent and a good team player by one’s peers by arguing against a new idea than by arguing in favor of it. Middle managers who fight for new ideas are regarded as troublemakers, even if they succeed in convincing corporations to undertake the projects they propose.
A corporate middle manager who fits Pinchot’s description of an intrapreneur is likely to be driven to leave a large organization to start a new enterprise as an entrepreneur.
Here’s a different idea for these big companies: Give it a try.
Don’t vet the idea in a conference room. Vet it in the marketplace. Go small and cheap. Give the project to a small group of people and get them out of headquarters and let them adapt it to real world feedback.