It’s our business to enable corporate teams and brands to innovate and grow like startups. So, while we work closely with our clients, in our time in the office, we hang out with, study, and operate like a startup to see what works and what doesn’t, and to stay relevant as markets continuously evolve.
If you’re looking to grow and innovate in a corporate environment, here are the top seven startup practices you need to adopt now.
1. Keep your eyes up and out. “Navel gazing” has always been a no-no, but now, more than ever, as markets shift quickly and competitors pop up seemingly overnight, it’s critical that corporates have an active eye on market trends, technology, new products and new business models from both within and outside their industries. This “external focus” is where startups spot opportunities, and the lack of it is where corporates miss them.
2. Constrain your resources. “Lean” approaches and teams are a popular buzz across many industries. But, most corporates still don’t really know what constrained resources really look like. Startups stay hungry until they can make money. They don’t have the luxury of time to make something work; and they often don’t have more than a handful of people working on the team. We hear often about the “startup” team at a corporation that got a product out the door with a “small team of 100 people and just 12 months.” In startup terms, that’s an army and an eternity. Cut your team by 2/3 and cut their pay in half until they deliver — and make the payout worth it. You’ll hit your goals a lot faster. (and, that’s only a little extreme).
3. Pursue multiple directions. A common slow down we see in corporations is the whole process of screening down ideas before putting too much development work in. Successful startups pursue multiple directions into market, then iterate them until they land on the one (or two) most viable and attractive models. Stop screening, and go to #4 below.
4. Get in market. Smart corporate teams are realizing that the need to get into market sooner. Even if their idea isn’t quite what it needs to be, getting in market – even a small market – quickly enables learning. And, gone are the days when consumers will penalize a brand for experimenting. In fact, it’s celebrated. Testing in secret has it’s benefits, but it’s quickly being displaced by the benefits of allowing the market to help you innovate in real-time.
5. Iterate and pivot fast. Many corporate “learning plans” require lengthy tests and in-depth analysis, and then multiple review meetings and sign offs before a product or marketing initiative can be adapted and re-tested. Worse, timing pressure leads a team to launch a product they know how to fix, before they can pivot and fix it; and with no funding or commitment left to fix it once it’s launched. We must learn to identify an issue, iterate or pivot (a more significant iteration) and test again. This is the popular-in-startup-world concept of MVP (minimum viable product) testing, and corporates need to replace concept and product testing with these faster, more agile and more effective approaches.
6. Take a smart risk. There comes a time for every entrepreneur when she must just take a leap. Those who see a trend, quickly hypothesize, test, iterate and pivot based on market reaction and then LAUNCH are the winners. Even if they have to release upgrades and improvements, the smart risk takers win every time compared to the wait-and-see’rs. The irony here is that some of the smartest business leaders we know are in the corporate environment but they simply don’t take risks.
7. Look damn good. You may have heard the adage that you can act your way into a new habit. Act like a runner and run every day and you’ll become a great runner. Look like you’ve got a great business model and branding, and you’ll build your business. Having a strong social media presence and a relevant look/feel makes startups the new cool kids on the block. Don’t underestimate the value of developing a brand identity and head shots with pithy bios of your team. And, consider letting yourselves dress like startup entrepreneurs…something about jeans, t-shirts and shoes that never need to be polished brings about great ideas and attract like-minded talent.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: Heisenberg Media
The Garage Group enables corporate teams to innovate and grow like startups. Want to re-invent the way you strategize, build initiatives and learn to be more entrepreneurial? We’d love to show you how.