EMPLOYEE AS ENTREPRENEUR: Work both sides of the street.
Bad-Ass Hack: Leverage your company’s throwaway IP and create your own startup. We all know your company is bleeding great ideas like a leaky bucket — mop some of that up and go make some money! If they won’t, why shouldn’t you? It’ll either open up a whole new market for the company to crawl over to later (giving them an opportunity to buy their idea back from you for a gazillion dollars), or help them die a little quicker.
• Maybe they’re locked in to a specific way of recording expenses, but your innovation (or one you’ve seen) could save each employee many hours, and still leave an appropriate paper trail. There’s a business opportunity here! Combine procedural smarts w/ a software programmer and you have a Silicon-Valley-type startup.
• Maybe your boss is one helluva gatekeeper, and your team has great ideas that keep going nowhere. There’s a business opportunity here! PowerPoint or videotape the ideas and send them to ten people above your boss. If your ideas are any good, they’ll go viral and the slap on the wrist you’ll receive will be worth it.
• Maybe your company is so locked into a specific process and specific tool (…let’s say it only works on the workstations you’re forced to use…), but you see a way to do it ten times faster by tweaking the process or tool (…let’s say by adapting it all for iPhones…). There’s a business opportunity here! Pull your team together w/ an app developer and with a minimal investment of time and money, you idea could be the next Big Thing!
What Makes It Bad-Ass: Most corporate culture is designed to prevent innovation and cross-market leaps in exchange for guaranted quality and replicability. Taking ideas they keep abandoning and delivering them to market brings more value to everyone — especially you!
How It Could Save Business’s Ass: Companies need to innovate or die. The quicker they grapple with this and start maximizing value in line with customer’s evolving needs the more successful they will be. Abandoned IP should be used by those with the courage to do so; this forces corporations to be leaner and more responsive. Survival of the fittest, baby!
You’ll find gazillions of examples of this approach throughout the history of capitalism. Here’s just one: Chris Pearson created Thesis, a WordPress theme used by top bloggers from an idea he had while working at a software store. He discovered a customer need that was going unmet by the store, and he delivered it without the need for a store.
Potential Downsides to Avoid: Don’t go to jail: corporate IP theft is no joke and those big companies have got some badass lawyers. We are not advocating stealing corporate IP like trade secrets. Focus only on the throwaways, the stupidly wasted ideas that you have a paper trail to evidence availability for.
• Pay close attention to when you say something like “but that’s freaking brilliant! What do you mean marketing didn’t approve it?”
• Write that idea down. Over time you’ll start noticing this happening more and more, and at some point one of those ideas will be too damn good to ignore.
• Create plausable deniability (anonymously posting it on the internet is always helpful) and write up a business plan.
• Optimally, get it developed in your spare time and line up an investor before your company even knows you’re doing it. Then you can quit and have cash to run with!
• • • • • • • • • •
12 Bad-Ass Hacks: We’re publishing one-a-month throughout 2011. Got examples of Bad-Ass Hacks? Please tell us about them. We’d love to post yours