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How to Think Like a Startup

Mo Works
Mo Works
09 Jun 2016 • 5 min read

To understand how startups achieve success, you need to spend some time in their mind.

They say you understand people better if you walk a mile in their shoes. But to understand how startups achieve success, you need to spend some time in their mind.

Startups are hitting businesses like an earthquake, shaking the foundations that established businesses have built themselves on for years. Instead of running and hiding for cover, businesses can protect themselves by adopting the mindset of a startup to tackle disruption head-on and become innovators in their own right. All it takes is a small shift in thinking to open up new possibilities that your business can capitalise on. Don’t be the next victim of a startup like AirBnb, Uber or Spotify, be future ready.

What is Innovation?

It’s the buzzword of the century, but the concept of innovation really is nothing new. It simply means figuring out new ways of doing things to make your existing strategy more efficient or effective. The process starts with critical thinking, questioning the strategies you use and how they could work better for customers. Once you’ve conjured up a plan of attack, you can then pick the right technology to bring your new ideas to life. Being constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve will ensure your business stays relevant and in touch with changing customer needs.

9 Characteristics of a Startup Mindset

Startups are by no means all the same, but their approach to business does tend to feature a few common characteristics. By approaching problems from these different angles, you could help your business stay one step ahead of startups.

  1. Speed

Startups often have a strong sense of urgency because they need to get their product to market before a competitor swoops in and steals the spotlight. By removing the red tape and hurdles stopping new ideas from getting off the ground, your business could get great strategies up and running much faster.

  1. People-focused

At the end of a day, an organisation only exists if it can adequately meet its customers’ needs and thrives if it can delight them. Spend time in your customer’s shoes, understand their reality and deliver something that truly meets a need.

  1. Shared Accountability

By giving your team a sense of purpose and the tools to collaborate, they will be empowered to do their jobs better.

  1. Frugality

In reality, there are constraints and finite resources. By acting frugally, you can minimise inefficiencies and create opportunities for innovation.

  1. Curiosity

Question underlying assumptions and ask ‘why’ something is happening. This may stimulate new insights and enable your organisation to find better ways to address problems.

  1. Unconventional

Startups act as though they have nothing to lose and embrace failure. Failure can drive steeper learning curves and even lead to further growth.

  1. Limitless

Organisations often impose limits as a means to protect their past legacy. Explore new possibilities in order to become ready for the future.

  1. Embrace Fear

New ideas can be daunting, but it’s important to realise that the time you spend scoping out whether an idea is 100% viable is time you could spend testing the product in the market.

  1. Design-Led

Design is a powerful tool for connecting with customers and establishing a strong point of difference. Thinking about design at every level of your business will help you ensure customers have the best experience possible.

Startup Mindset in Action: Nimble

Nimble is a prime example of how the startup mindset can be put into practice to shake up the way entire industries operate. The startup saw a gap in the market for fast, simple loans and created a simple online form which allowed customers to apply for loans anywhere, anytime. Funds could be transferred within seconds of approval, which offered customers an attractive alternative to standing in long lines at the bank.

Nimble was able to innovate and disrupt the lending industry because they thought critically about what the market needed, then capitalised on available technology to answer this need. Their machine-learning algorithms quickly analysed 4500 points of data, including credit history, self-reported data and behavioural data, to approve and deliver loans in a flash. The results speak for themselves:

  • 1 million loans approved since 2005
  • $37 million turnover at end of 2014
  • $18 million raised in funding from investors over 2 years

Businesses’ Upper Hand

Startups like Nimble aren’t the only ones who can capitalise on new opportunities and in fact, businesses are in a much stronger position to innovate. Businesses generally have stability and experience that startups lack, but your most valuable asset is your employees. Employees are on the frontline of an organisation and are often the best people to spot flaws and vulnerabilities in a system. Speaking and listening to what they have to say, and giving them an opportunity to contribute ideas, will act as a strong guiding light for how your business could be improved. This could lead to innovations such as:

  • Improving existing products and services
  • Entering new markets
  • Finding new ways to service an existing market
  • Developing new products and services

Get Started Today

We only need to look at companies like Nokia and Kodak to see the consequences of failing to seek opportunities to innovate. Existing business who can get into a startup mindset and proactively tackle industry changes will be much more likely to maintain a strong foothold in the industry.

If you would like more information about how to be future ready, feel free to contact us or attend one of our Future Ready Business events.

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