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Lessons from start-ups - seven practical tips you can learn to become more innovative

 

 

We have identified seven start-up innovation practices and outlined practical tips you can adopt in your business to help improve innovation.

  1. Think big and follow your vision

    What do start-ups do?

    Start-ups passionately believe in their product or service and have a plan to scale up fast and grow to achieve the vision. They are constantly on the lookout for opportunities in the marke

    What can you do?

    Is your business vision and strategy big and bold? Challenge your current vision by asking yourself and your team the following questions:

    • What is your reason for being in business?
    • When was the last time you updated your vision?
    • Do you communicate your vision with your customers and team regularly?
    • Does your team know and believe in the vision

  2. Put the customer first

    What do start-ups do?

    Start-ups work directly with customers along each step of the journey, testing and validating key assumptions that underpin their ideas about the product and its market. Start-ups will ‘pivot’ the product or service based on their customer’s experience to ensure the product responds to their problems effectively and adds value.

    What can you do?

    To help put the customer at the centre of your products and services, go out and talk to your customers, and walk in your customer’s shoes - try to understand the customer’s experience as they interact with your products and services. A simple way to try this is to let your staff experience being a customer.

  3. Fail fast and fail cheaply

    What do start-ups do?

    Start-ups embrace failure, promote it and are responsive to change. They see failure as a learning experience to improve their product and/or business. Start-ups constantly tweak, pivot and iterate their business model, design, product or service to their market and create customer value.

    What can you do?

    To help your organisation to embrace failure, not over invest, and create a ‘safe to fail environment’ consider adopting Lean Start-up principles of ‘build, measure, learn’ which require short product development cycles, fast prototyping, early market testing to gain customer feedback, and using market data to iterate in the next build phase. Start by undertaking this on a specific project and measure the results against your existing product development process.

  4. Collaborate internally and externally

    What do start-ups do?

    Start-ups collaborate by working in teams, sharing experiences and resources with other start-ups at co-working spaces. They also work closely with customers, suppliers, universities, and even competitors to form ideas and test and develop solutions that create value.

    What can you do?

    To open up your business to new ideas and approaches internally and externally, put a stronger emphasis on co-creation and partnering — engaging with customers, suppliers, universities, and other parties on research, design, development or marketing of products or services.

  5. Form smaller teams

    What do start-ups do?

    Start-ups have smaller teams, which bring the right skills and allow agile decision making to increase the speed of the innovation process.

    What can you do?

    To help increase the speed of your innovation process, try forming small, focussed project teams that can move fast (no more than fou)r. A good example of the use of smaller teams is at Spotify, a music streaming service, where it divides its business into small clusters, called ‘squads’, and runs each like a start-up in its own right. Each focusses on a specific function and iterates to form a minimum viable product, a version of the new product which allows the team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort to release updates early and often.

  6. Do more with less

    What do start-ups do?

    Start-ups get things done with limited resources by financing their venture through ‘bootstrapping’. They are motivated by the need to survive, often making just enough money to cover basic living costs.

    What can you do?

    To help improve the way you fund innovation in your business, try:

    • Setting up an experimental project that is run independently from the normal course of business. Give the project a tight budget, a limited set of resources and an audacious goal. Set a team up, see how it tackles the challenge and what evolves as a result. GE did this with its FastWorks program. A newly formed team was required to create a functioning product in just three months that would become a fully developed product in 12 months. The team was small and had limited resources and funding.
    • Funding innovation projects based on results, not the calendar year. Not every project or idea is going to turn into a successful project. It is therefore important to manage the resources you have and, if necessary, to discontinue the project early on to avoid wasting time and resources. Limit the amount of capital you provide to projects based on the outcomes they produce rather than a set budget for the calendar year. If the project is successful in achieving set results, the project can be further funded.

  7. Put technology at the heart of the business

    What do start-ups do?

    Many successful start-ups embrace technology to compete in today’s digital economy. Technology enables them to reach global markets and customers rapidly while allowing for greater scale and the reduction of costs.

    What can you do?

    Partner with or invest in those in the know such as software providers or technology start-ups for R&D or commercialisation where your business does not have the technological capability or existing technology solutions exist. This allows you to grow and learn faster than developing in-house technology internally from scratch.


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