Start being a startup again

12th April 2018
In this age of disruption, big can mean slow and first can mean left behind. So how do you make sure you outrun and outgun your rivals? 

Innovate. Inspire. Iterate.

The three I’s. Three words that are never far from the lips of a startup CEO. Because they’re the direct result of three behaviours every startup engages in - every day. Acting like a startup could help you be more nimble and gain a competitive advantage with the flexibility to adapt and bring new offerings to market, fast. 

While you may be bigger and have been around for longer, you were a startup once too. So there’s no reason your business can’t act like one again. How do you run your team like a startup?

Three ways to recapture your startup mojo

1. Nurture new ideas
2. Empower your employees
3. Listen to your customers

These three daily behaviours will lead directly to innovation, inspiration and iteration - respectively. Let’s take a look at how you can infuse your workday with them.

1. Nurture new ideas

Every morning, when a startup CEO walks into their small but cosy office and greets their team, they know exactly what they’re getting: surprised. And that’s why their business is growing so fast. They let it.

Know what you don’t know.

How do you get innovative new ideas from your employees? There’s no right answer. First, you have to admit how much everyone - including your staff - has to teach you. Then just try something...

Like a noticeboard in the kitchen - a relaxed environment, where the mind likes to wander. Next to the noticeboard: stacks of Post It notes and balls of coloured string - and a plaque with a few simple ‘rules’, like you can only add or build on an idea, not subtract or destroy.

Once someone’s added a Post It, encourage others to not just add their own, but place their Post Its on top of another, as a build, or connect two seemingly unrelated Post Its with string. The result: a living, breathing, colourful ecosystem of innovative thinking.

Whatever your system, have one in place. Because innovation is the lifeblood of any business. It leads to original product or service ideas. It wards off disruption. And best of all, it keeps people coming to work, by nurturing and incubating a culture of inclusion.

2. Empower your staff

With inclusion intrinsic to your culture, you’re one step closer to acting like a startup. The next daily behaviour is giving your staff the power to act on their ideas. Big corporations tend to wade in too much red tape to let new thinking flourish. Here’s where chain-of- command should be relaxed a little.

How do you run your team like a startup? One way of democratising power, is to throw job titles out the window. Instead, each team member gets a number of ‘hats’ to wear - and the freedom to switch between various roles they’ve shown an interest in.

Leaner is meaner. But it’s kinder, too.

The result is better collaboration: no one ever feels powerless, useless or left out. They only feel inspired. Which can only be good for morale.

Of course, startups have the advantage of already having a small team - but by emulating them, you can achieve similar results. So break your staff down into nimble groups with the power to act on whatever decision they come to.

3. Be responsive

The final daily behaviour for recapturing your startup mojo, is listening to your customers. Think back to when your company was small: who kept the business growing, and why? Your existing customers, because you listened to them.

Your oldest customers have the newest ideas.

Your core clientele are the ones who help you shape your business - and here’s where you have a real advantage as a big corporation: you have more ‘old’ customers.

How do you get the most from your customers? Ask them questions. And really listen to the answers you get back. When they have a good suggestion, iterate. Create a beta version of your product or service feature, then run an A/B test. You’d be amazed how often B wins.

It’s about being responsive, so adapt to your customers’ expectations. They’re not only key to your ongoing success, they’re the reason you started. And that kind of startup thinking never gets old, however long you’ve been in business. 

How will you apply them?

Make these three daily behaviours a permanent part of your team ethos and you’ll soon be acting like a startup again. But if you don’t do anything, you run the risk of being overtaken by one.

Use the ideas above or try some of your own. All that’s important is that you free yourself up to be as nimble and innovative as possible - your way. After all, no one does it like you.
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