Innovation Self Forming Teams. The cornerstone of corporate entrepreneurship

If you want a simple measure of whether or not your company truly encourages ‘thinking and acting like a start-up’, aka believes in corporate entrepreneurship, you need only to measure the ratio of innovation self  forming teams (ISFT’s) vs. the usual world of innovation by entitled corporate royalty, commanding siloed armies of conscripts.   Think about it as the Athenian vs. Spartan ratio of innovation.

There aren’t many paragons of ISFT’s to learn from in the corporate world (Google, 3M, Tata, Clorox, NPD Group, Jarden, & Qualcomm are notable exceptions), but you can find plenty of comparables in the online world.  Online, you need look no further than in MMORPG’s – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games such as World of Warcraft (or WoW). Set in the fantasy world of Azeroth, WoW is by far the western world’s most popular MMORPG with an estimated 8 million monthly subscribers giving it over 50% of share in this market.  Note:  There are plenty of companies that encourage employee self-organized groups for such things such as workplace inclusion, health and fitness, etc. – increasingly, the role of the HR department.  


In WoW, single players don’t get very far on their quest – to progress through the 80 levels, teaming up with other players is essential – in WoW, self forming teams with complementary skills are called Guilds (like the medieval merchant and craft guilds formed for protection of members and consumers).   Characteristics of good guilds include mature leadership and generosity towards members but also low spam and low drama. Most Guilds include a mix of apprentices, journeymen and at least one master – independently of level – everyone must ‘pay’ to play (the meaning of guild).   Belonging to a Guild requires intrinsic motivation to achieve higher levels of performance – the main motivation comes from not letting your fellow Guild members down.

In WoW, good Guilds don’t view challenges as obligations or threats but rather opportunities for innovation and faster learning – that’s perhaps the biggest lesson we can transfer from this game into making the corporate innovation game a fulfilling yet efficient quest for higher levels.

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