3 Ways to Innovate Like a Startup

Struggling to innovate and rejuvenate the business you work in? Why not take a page out of a startup’s playbook? As businesses expand, you might find that you’re no longer as nimble and responsive to changes as you used to be. Shake things up by adding some of the flexibility, innovation, and frugality that make startups the exciting spaces they are.

1. Don’t Get Comfortable

Don’t be afraid to pivot when your product doesn’t work anymore. YouTube is a product of pivoting. Starting out as a video-based dating service, it pivoted to become what it is today, a video platform with around 2 billion active monthly users.

It is natural for a company to abandon flexibility for stability after it has its product-market fit. In his power read, Pascal Finette, Chair for Entrepreneurship & Open Innovation at Singularity University, talks about the “immune system response.” This happens when a company shifts from innovating and testing new methods to maintaining the status quo because the product already makes them money.  The immune system response isn’t wrong, but you should avoid stagnating at all costs. Pascal shares that in this ever-changing, competitive business landscape, companies cannot afford to rest on their laurels. You need to reassess the market, be receptive to changes that will keep you relevant, and constantly innovate.

2. Roll Up Your Sleeves And Get Creative

At the centre of pivoting is creativity and dynamism. Are you training your team to think innovatively? Does your company’s culture support creativity? Similar to weightlifting, where you start small and work your way up, stimulate your team’s creative juices by assigning them a small problem that needs to be solved. Something as simple as coming up with a creative social media post can get the momentum going. Through cycles of trial and error, the team builds their creative muscle memory.

This entire process takes up time and money, but be wary of funneling too much resource into these projects. Pascal Finette explains that having a big budget deprives your team from thinking outside the box and distracts them from what is relevant. In fact, startups are all about doing more with less. Instead of relying solely on big budgets, challenge your team to brainstorm cost-effective yet impactful alternatives that get the job done. Usually, scarcity will force you to keep innovation and efficiency central to your processes.

3. Stop Fearing Failure

The most innovative companies in the world embrace failures for what they are: opportunities to learn and improve. Give your team the room to make mistakes without responding negatively. If your team associates failure with negativity, fear will creep into their consciousness. This fear of failure stifles creativity and encourages sterile, monotonous ideas. Make sure you’re setting up channels where you’re giving each other constructive feedback in order to effectively learn from your mistakes. Be critical and honest about what worked and what didn’t. Use this to better understand how you can shape your strategy differently the next time around.   

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