Thats been asked often enough - a couple of times even to me personally - inside larger, less nimble organizations. Over the last couple of weeks, I've had a few discussions in various contexts that have highlighted this need.
Large organizations need processes and systems that can be followed to replicate, predictably, certain outcomes. These need discipline, conformity and some sort of a hierarchy to get executed smoothly. This is true across functions of the organization - production, sales, HR, procurement, you-name-it. Product innovation and R&D is about the only one which has some leeway on this, but there's a tonne of effort to put measurability and processes around that, as well.
Businesses and their needs are dynamic! You get into new products, manage new regulations, expand into new geographies. Old models do not always work in these situations. You might need to package differently, market differently, or price differently. You may not get the product, or positioning right at the first go. You want to be agile, nimble and ready to experiment with more than one approach around the core idea, while measuring constantly to figure out what works and what does not. And you want to keep your costs down, while you figure things out. Be frugal.
Who's good at these fuzzy situations ? Entrepreneurs!
So obviously, there needs to be an element within large enterprises which is entrepreneurial in nature, from a risk taking and nimbless viewpoint, not bogged down by heavy processes and relatively comfortable with lack of resources and clarity. And within this space, folks need a free hand.
Once the core problem is solved, the corporate machinery can - nay - should - move in. Beyond the establishing of the models, processes are needed to ensure scale, consistency, reliability, profitability over a sustained period of time.
But when you gotta go-in-there-and-get-things-done, having a few "mavericks" (from the pov of established orgs) is a huge help.
And the other side
Entrepreneurs often know certain aspects of the business well. Many are engineers who know the product real well, and haven't a clue about other areas. There's often a disconnect from the real user out there, or about pricing models, or undertaking market research and the like.
This is where a stint within a large consumer facing organization will help! The ITCs, HLLs and Tatas of the world have sales folks who've been amongst users across the country, and have insights like nobody's got them. A successful marketing head who's sold gensets in a particular territory will provide important clues about consumer behaviour that will be pretty much impossible to find for a small startup. The pricing and distribution models for entry level mobile phones have a lot to teach entrepreneurs about aspirations, and managing them. And there's no better teacher than been-there, done-that.
Is there a symbiotic relationship here ? At least a limited, short term one ? Perhaps an "internship" or "guest worker" like program, where both benefit from each other and work towards cross pollination of specific skills and attitudes. Who could take the lead on this and do the connects, walk the program through its paces ? Thoughts, ideas welcome in comments.