The need to form liquid organizations or companies

The need to form liquid organizations or companies

Let’s face a fact: If innovation were easy, everyone would be doing it. Innovation is complex because it requires integrating different elements and areas that are not connected in many companies; or what is worse, they ignore each other. This complexity is what calls into question one of the concepts that have become fashionable in recent years: agility. In many companies, this fashion has been raised as a strategic necessity. Frequently, we listen and read about the need for agility in order to survive in the market, and the efficiency of agile methodologies to achieve it. In that sense, what is said about agility is also said about innovation: If an innovation methodology is implemented, it will be possible to be innovative.

The truth is that being agile or innovative is not achieved by just following a method; there’s a culture and a philosophy that should be first adopted. And that is what startups have.

The startup way

One of the unexpected advantages of a startup is what appears to be its weakness. As, at first, they don’t have a business model or market share to defend, these organizations aren’t dependent on an existing revenue stream. However, those same weaknesses give startups a great advantage regarding innovation. Startups can try any idea, any business model, any methodology: Their own nature allows them to cultivate an innovative culture. 

Traditional organizations lack this mindset: They carry with a pre-digital history and track-record that rub the development of it. ¿But what does this actually mean? ¿Why is it so hard for many organizations to “be like a startup”? We can identify to big categories of barriers for innovation: Strategic and cultural.

Strategic barriers

Few companies are able to effectively manage their core business with innovation, as each one requires different approaches and innovation often ends in failure. An excessive focus on the short term and on the search for solutions within the traditional core business is also common.

On the other hand, the essential elements for innovation are not always analyzed in depth: The business model (what are the sources of added value through which customers buy from us) and the key capabilities of the company (know-how, know-who, resources, brand reputation, culture, etc). This usually implies insufficient courage and a disruptive mindset to adequately prepare for the future with new business approaches, both in times of sectoral stability and in periods of transformation.

Cultural barriers

The inbreeding and excessive hierarchy that limits agility in decisions, the lack of diversity in teams and multi-departmental involvement in strategic projects, not encouraging experimentation and excessively penalizing error, the limited focus on the sector in the search for business opportunities, excessive analysis, the lack of use of elements such as intuition before making decisions or the fear of being a pioneer are examples of management styles that make it difficult to create innovative cultures.

How can organizations foster innovation?

First of all: What follows is not a formula. It’s not a step-by-step guide. We present you with suggestions, pathways, ideas not to actually innovate –no one can guarantee that– but to foster innovation and an agile culture. 

Create a culture of creative thinking

The first step is simple: Just encourage creative thinking among all employees. From the integration of different perspectives to greater tolerance for error, all are opportunities to bring new approaches to what is being done and try new things. Many times, companies spend large sums of money on third-party audits or consultancies, but the seed of change is in the heart of the organization: its culture.

Set goals

To achieve good results, planning is essential. Thinking about the objectives and putting together a plan with actions to achieve them will be the roadmap for the company. None of the most innovative brands we know today made changes without a strategy behind it. Some trigger questions: What company processes could be changed? What resources do I need to get started? What technology exists today that I am not using to make work easier? Do I do things that could be automated?

Create the right team

If you want to achieve changes, you need to give your team the necessary tools so that they can follow them. Creating the right team means identifying people with an innovative attitude, a desire to learn and take risks. Another key issue is to involve different people from other areas at some point in the plan so that they add their vision.

Evaluate and measure results

Within the plan, it will be necessary to establish clear deadlines for work and implementation of the new processes. The changes will be incremental or radical, but never immediate. Likewise, it must be taken into account that it will be necessary to apply modifications to the initial plan. No project will be perfect from the beginning. Here the key is to test, measure, iterate over and over again until expectations are met. Remember: Ideate, prototype, scale.


Innovation is a process. This is a fact. Startups didn’t just create an agile culture out of nowhere: It started with small steps that, once consolidated, established it. All organizations can be innovative, it’s just a matter of time, patience, resilience and tenacity. 

Marinel-lo @ Partners