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How to inspire a start-up mentality in your organisation

Posted by Mark Tuckwood 1 August 2017 Innovation Consultancy

Defined by Investopedia as ‘a company that is in the first stage of its operations [which] attempts to capitalise on developing a product or service for which they believe there is a demand,’ start-ups require a certain outlook and approach. Often small in size and as a result nimble, these companies can react quickly to changes in the market and are able to generate new ideas. Additionally they are frequently composed of bright, entrepreneurial figures who each bring a different skill set to the table, and can thus be dynamic places to work which channel their energy into new and exciting projects.

Yet when your organisation has been thriving for several years or maybe even decades, has been scaled up and rolled out across international borders and multiple marketplaces, how can you ensure that these start-up qualities continue to thrive in your organisational culture? 

Go beyond the rhetoric 

Although it is easy to discuss start-up culture in jargon-filled language and with all the right buzzwords, if you don’t delve deeper into what it means to have a start-up mentality your chances of success are hampered. 

A recent article by Wired argued that culture should be one of the first considerations of a growing business, as ‘seasoned founders and CEOs who believe there is room for culture from the beginning experience less culture-related stress as they grow.’

Defining culture for your own purposes can be tricky, but vital if it is to be fully utilised as a tool in the development of your organisation. Wired quotes Rand Fishkin, CEO and founder of Moz as saying that ‘core values, a mission, and talent strategy’ are essential components of fostering start-up culture, whereas Wired contributor Corey Mcaveeney argues ‘identity, growth strategy, and relationships’ are vital measurements. By choosing values that resonate not only with the kind of company you want to be but which are also closely aligned with your KPI’s, start-up culture can be put to good use.

See product launch as an opportunity

Launching a new product can be a prime opportunity to channel a start-up mentality and showcase your organisation’s capacity to innovate.

Marketing Week argues that big companies need to act with a startup mentality when it comes to product launch, and that ‘top brands should remain agile and not be scared to admit when a formula is no longer working.’ Quoting digital marketing director at Lego Sara Holt as saying ‘kill the old formulae. Just because you had success before, doesn’t mean you will again,’ the article argues that large organisations can struggle with the dynamism and creativity required to launch a new product.

While there is little issue with using previous successes to build incremental innovations, one of the strengths of a start-up mentality is having the confidence to take risks and think outside the box. Paul Wright, head of multichannel at FatFace, furthers this point, telling Marketing Week that when it comes to product launch ‘you should act with pace and agility. If you can’t make a decision, there is no point.’

Focus on driving innovation

One of the biggest indicators of a start-up mentality is a focus on driving innovation, and large organisations can do well by following the lead of those multinationals who have succeeded. One such example is Nestlé, which according to their vice president of digital and social media Pete Blackshaw draws its success from thinking much smaller than the 200 brands it has under its umbrella.

At the Socialbakers's Engage event held in Prague this spring, Blackshaw referred to an ‘innovation trifecta’ which enables big brands to stay ahead. Reported by Econsultancy, an ‘innovation trifecta’ incorporates internal innovation in the form of data acceleration, external innovation and social listening, and an innovation platform which enables collaboration between multiple entrepreneurs.

Using this three-pronged approach, Nestlé has shown that even the largest organisations can devise a strategy that allows for small thinking and thus is strong in innovation. Through a combination of finding a value system which works for your organisation, capitalising upon opportunities such as a new product launch to take a new angle, and focusing on innovation, organisations large and small can embrace a start-up mentality.

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