The entrepreneurs’ mantra of “fail fast” is in sharp contrast with the risk-averse nature of many corporations. In fact, some executives at large companies would say it’s easy for a start-up to disrupt, even at the risk of failure, because they have nothing to lose. While this may be true to some extent, corporations need to shift their mindset to embrace start-up innovation and its learnings. Large companies are realizing this and know that they have to take risks, ask uncomfortable questions and push limits. So, how can corporations harness the power of a nimble start-up? After all, all great corporations were start-ups once. These four ideas can help your company find and embrace your small (but mighty) roots.
- Make everyone accountable for innovation
Despite vast improvements in communication technologies and access to information, many organizations still have siloed teams that are organized by function. Marketing, finance and IT each holds one piece of the innovation puzzle, but no one is looking at the big picture. Start-ups haven’t developed the infrastructure to muddy the waters. Everyone on a four- or five-person diverse team is accountable for the end result, and each person has to work together on the solution. The most successful and innovative ones are easy to spot — all members are contributing to a productive outcome, rather than speaking only to their focus area. Successful companies believe that balanced innovation output is a product of finding a sweet spot between feasibility, value and profitability. They can channel the start-up mentality of holding everyone accountable by breaking down siloed ways of thinking about functions.
- Start with the customer
Start-ups develop because founders can’t find a solution in the existing market. They become their own customer, tapping into the latent demand of others like them. They are inherently following a customer-driven design (CDD) thinking process to build their product. Through CDD, we aim to develop a deep understanding of our customers’ needs, feelings and challenges, and to uncover new ideas. Through unique insight, we can develop differentiated and valued solutions in an increasingly commoditized industry.
- Get out of the office
At a large company, often only frontline employees interact with the customers and pain points never make it to leadership. At a start-up, by contrast, the CEO might do the same, thus inherently gathering valuable firsthand insight into the user experience. It allows them to understand the process and where improvements can be made that will ultimately impact the customer.
- Be relentless
Startups have remarkable tales of overcoming adversity while maintaining drive and energy, and they are willing to put in the effort because they are driven by passion and purpose. As corporations grow, it’s easy to become complacent and removed. Reaffirming the “why we do what we do” is the responsibility of the leaders within the company.