3 Lessons In Success That Big Tech Companies Should Take From Startups

8 June, 2017 / Articles
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We’ve all seen it happen, and to stalwart titans of the tech industry: disruption. Large companies that seem untouchable get out-innovated and knocked down or out of the market. The threat of small, nimble tech companies making big innovations is real, so many larger companies are restructuring to look and feel more like the intensely innovative startups that are dominating the industry.

It’s quite simple, really. Small tech companies can do what larger tech companies cannot, and this is why It is imperative that large companies restructure from the old, top-down behemoths they have been until now into fast-moving, innovation-first creators. Upper management in large companies starts to act as a VC or an angel would in a tech startup, advising small teams that can iterate fast. Large corporations like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Target have already created innovation labs to take advantage of bright minds in an incubator-like space — and these companies are not even in tech.

Big tech companies should take note, and preemptively work to stay on top of the latest innovations. Here’s three lessons that you can learn that will help you avoid being on the bottom of the pile.

Don’t Be Afraid of Weird

Creativity and innovation doesn’t happen in a space that encourages the status quo. Creativity can look bizarre or challenging, and often doesn’t get rewarded. The most creative people are often strangely out of whack with “normal” people. Just think of how many geniuses have been “crazy,” like Leonardo DaVinci or Albert Einstein. In fact, a new study on high school valedictorians shows that they rarely go on to become innovators or disruptors — because getting a 4.0 requires following rules, not thinking outside the box.

So, throw away any ideas you may have about “normal.” Let your team try and do more. Hire for and encourage out of the box weirdness, and reward that thinking. If you really want to challenge the orthodox and disrupt new tech spaces, you must be willing to go where no one has gone before, and that can get uncomfortable. Allow the space to get weird, and innovation will come.

Small and Fast Wins the Race

Large tech companies move slowly because of large bureaucracy. It takes weeks and sometimes months or years to move the gigantic ship that is a corporation, and getting consensus from the board, partners, plus relevant managerial input can create bottlenecks that keep corporations from iterating quickly. Today’s market demands lightning quick innovation if you want to keep up.

And you don’t have to be a tech startup to act like one. Many larger tech companies have put smaller, internal teams together that can rapidly test things to identify what works and what doesn’t, without having to wait for upper management to approve budgets or get on board. Smaller innovation teams within tech companies can get back to customers more quickly, can move on ideas faster, and create more momentum, but only if they are empowered to make those decisions, so hire with that in mind. When you can get your response times within minutes or hours, you’ll start picking up the pace and be able to compete.

Encourage failure

For almost every CEO I’ve ever interviewed, failure is cited as the number one predictor of success. Successful tech startups that have previously failed cite that they learned more in that failure than they did in any other scenario, and courageous risk was the basis of every one of those failures. Innovation is by definition the beginning of a new chapter; a brand new product or idea; and you won’t ever know if it will work until you try.

If you truly want your tech company to succeed, your innovators need to take risks, and all risk is riding the line of failure. If you want to act like a tech startup, build failure into your company’s culture. Who can you designate to take risks? How much can you and will you risk? What will you learn to do differently next time? Though you may have more to lose as a large company, you also have a larger cushion to fall back on if you can support and encourage failure in sectors of your company that can handle it.

Act like an Ecosystem

Obviously large companies have day-to-day operations and successful products that must be maintained and the whole company shouldn’t pivot to act like a small tech startup. But neither should your large company continue to think that there is only one business model for a large corporation. Diversifying your internal operations strengthens your business as it does a natural ecosystem.

From an ecosystems perspective, your business needs to have multiple arms, all going at different rates, in different spaces, experimenting and executing simultaneously. Whichever of those spaces is the most successful and creates the most life can then be given more resources, like team members or budget allowances. This will allow you to fail in one or more spaces, while still thriving in others — quick, fast, and efficient.

In conclusion:

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and change everything you’re doing already, as it has made you successful. But neither get stuck in thinking that because the system you used before worked this well, that it will continue to work with little to no effort on your part. Stay savvy, and look into how you can diversify your team’s focus that will allow you to continue to stay successful in what you’re creating now while pivoting quickly into the future.The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.

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