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How to Think Like a Startup – And Why

How to Think Like a Startup – And Why

When big companies think like a startup, they can innovate and disrupt with agility. Here are 5 tips for corporations to emulate the startup culture and stay ahead of the curve.

All businesses begin as startups. Young and enthusiastic, octane-driven, they attract the right talent. Sometimes, somewhere along their journey, large companies forget this working style and adrenaline-packed culture. Innovation and creativity take a back seat, alongside the agility to adapt and respond to changing market needs.

Wouldn’t it be great if all companies could infuse ‘a startup way of being’ within their organisational cultures – so they could continue to drive disruption with their flexibility and focus on constant innovation?

Here’s how you can do that.

You must remain in a constant state of discovery, iteration, experimentation, and agility to continue to create value.”

~Jeremiah Gardner
(The Lean Brand)

1. Foster innovation

Bob Iger famously said, “The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.

Encourage curiosity. Incite dissent. Urge your teams to ask ‘why?’ or, even better, ‘why not?’ When your teams ask new questions, you are bound to discover new solutions and uncover the path to disruption.

Look at how GE pushes the envelope in its innovation processes through its initiative, FirstBuild. This online and physical community of co-creators includes designers, engineers, builders, and sellers of next-gen home appliances, who work together to bring products to market faster.

2. Encourage risk-taking

As Jillian Michaels has said, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.

Let’s not equate entrepreneurial risk-taking with gambling. When you eliminate the fear of failure, your organisation can, in fact, de-risk the innovation process and experiment with new ideas. Take the example of Starbucks, which took a hard knock in 2008. It realised it had over-expanded, damaging its brand as the quality of coffee went down. The company’s CEO Howard Schultz stepped in, closed down all the stores, and retrained employees on how to make good coffee. He ingrained his love for the brand in his colleagues, and today Starbucks boasts of more than 31,000 stores worldwide.

3. Build trust

Honesty, integrity, and transparency – these are the three cornerstones of a safe working environment. When your employees feel secure, they are more confident about sharing new ideas. Be transparent about all aspects of the company, especially when it’s not all good news. But most importantly, listen. Conduct regular one-on-one or virtual meetings and town halls where anyone can raise questions, even to top management. Foster an environment of psychological safety, where no question or suggestion is penalised.

4. Empower decision-making

A top-down structure is what most baby boomers and GenXers are used to. With millennial and GenZ employees, a bottom-up approach works better. There is a greater sense of ownership when you involve the whole organisation in the decision-making process. Yes, it might feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but the learning will be exponential. You may even fast track the process of identifying potential leaders.

5. Be customer-obsessed

Small businesses aren’t just different on the inside. Their USP: delivering a personalised experience to customers. Align your teams to find innovative ways to reach out to customers. And place high importance on customer feedback. Acknowledge feedback immediately and follow up with action. Also, in an age where chatbots are ubiquitous, it’s important to stay ‘human.’ Train your customer service and support teams to care and be empathetic.

Start implementing these measures in your enterprise today and stay relevant. Don’t just outlast disruption, disrupt it.

And find out how Salesforce inculcates an innovative and disruptive employee culture.

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