At a small tech company that’s just getting off the ground, a scrappy, “get-it-done” startup mentality is often the key to growing and scaling. At a larger or more established company, this mentality can sometimes get lost or bogged down in corporate processes.
If this is the case in your organization, it can help to rally your tech team around an internal “startup mentality.” But this is often easier said than done. To set you on the right course, we asked 16 members of Forbes Technology Council what steps an enterprise tech team can take to operate more like a startup. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Leverage smaller teams.
The startup mentality is like Facebook’s initial motto, “Move fast and break things.” Larger companies cannot afford this, but there can be a middle ground by creating smaller teams and empowering them to make their own decisions backed by strong quality assurance. One big motivation for a tech team is seeing their work in production, so a faster deploy cycle helps keep the team motivated and driven. - Vishal Agarwal, ItsACheckmate.com Inc.
2. Task a group with getting you to the ‘proof of concept’ stage.
The process for developing a production-grade product is different than what is required for rapid innovation. The playbook I like is to create an emerging tech group with an entrepreneurial leader, focusing on ideation and getting concepts to proof-of-concept stages—go-to-market innovation should be in the mix. After successful POC, find the “business owner” who will productize it and run with it. - Praveen Mandal, Volta Charging and 2predict
3. Foster a creative company culture.
Startup mentality is often associated with creativity, a blank-slate mentality and innovation. As an enterprise matures, structure is needed. However, a culture of creativity, open-mindedness, out-of-box thinking and flexibility should be fostered. The resulting inputs can be shaped to conform or directionally comply with the guardrails of an enterprise architecture strategy or principles. - Siva Saravanan, Wavestone
4. Start with one team of innovators.
Having a startup mentality is a must for companies as it’s the only way to succeed in a dynamic world. It empowers people to try new approaches to old problems and create a culture based on the “fail fast; succeed faster” mantra. How to step in this direction? Start small—create one team to drive innovation and changes to existing or new processes. - Ivan Fioravanti, CoreView
5. Don’t stop looking for breakthroughs.
A startup mentality keeps everyone looking for breakthroughs at all times. It empowers people to work with maximum flexibility and bring innovative ideas to the table. A strong grip on changing trends and the ability to be creative is integral for creating tech wonders. When it comes to technology, innovation is the secret recipe. You cannot create wonders without thinking unconventionally. - Salman Lakhani, Cubix Global Inc.
6. Break down silos.
Any organization can benefit from speeding the pace of innovation, which startups are known for. In today’s agile and unpredictable world, companies need to ensure they’re making decisions as fast as possible. To start, removing the silos that often plague bigger companies lets teams understand a trend that’s happening in the industry, make a decision and act as quickly as possible. - Sujai Hajela, Mist
7. Encourage the team to ‘break things.’
There is always a need for innovation—even in large companies—and the best way to innovate is to iterate quickly and “break things,” as some say. There are many good advantages of startups, such as a quick minimum viable product, iteration, quick fixing, boundary-pushing and others. Large companies would do well to incorporate these into their everyday work. - Mercedes Soria, Knightscope
8. Empower your employees and embrace failure.
I highly recommend companies create a dedicated innovation group that formally ideates and experiments with new products, services and technologies. This group should fully embrace failure as a positive and not a negative trait. Employees of the company should be empowered by being given the funding and resources that enable them to test out ideas that could make an impact on the organization. - Eugene Khazin, Prime TSR
9. Break teams into pods with core responsibilities.
Maintaining a startup mentality adds a sense of empowerment to the employees, which helps foster accountability and innovation. A good way to accomplish this would be to break down a team into certain pods with core responsibilities. During feature implementation, there would be ample coordination between pods, building out team camaraderie and allowing self-regulation as well. - Mihir Shinde, B&H Photo Video Pro Audio
10. Adopt a ‘microservice’ model.
Technology is changing business much faster than ever before. Product cycles are becoming shorter, and large companies need to be able to adapt fast to avoid obsolescence. Adopting a startup mentality is essential for big companies to survive. Such a mentality can be feasible in a “microservice,” non-monolith business structure. Remember, a group of small boats can change direction faster than a big ship! - Ahmad (Al) Fares, CeliTech Inc.
11. Create small initiatives in response to market needs, and pivot when needed.
Startup rules drive value for innovation in mature organizations too. Operate with smaller, focused teams. Identify market problems and know how many people will pay what price to solve them. If your tech initiative fails or stalls, accept the failure and pivot or close it down to avoid throwing good money at the wrong idea. Start small and scale rather than going big too soon. - Bob Hiss, Accenture
12. Get rid of the ‘box.’
This is obviously going to vary on a case-by-case basis, but I think tech teams generally thrive in a creative environment fostered by a “startup mentality.” It’s a whole lot easier to “think outside the box” when there’s no “box” placed around you in the first place. The key is having a good workflow process to interface between your freewheeling tech team and the rest of the business. - Dan Demers, Cinchy
13. Maintain a two-speed culture.
The one thing that is constant about tech is change, and the winners are on the forward edge of this change. Maintain a two-speed culture to keep your tech team focused on change. The keys to success for driving a startup mentality in a large company are to use small teams, give permission to go outside traditional boundaries and hire talented individuals. - Sanjay Srivastava, Genpact
14. Understand the key startup principles.
Maintaining a startup mentality can give teams the fluidity and flexibility they need to be successful. The most successful startups in the last couple of decades all had a few things in common: They challenged the status quo, made mistakes, weren’t afraid of change and adapted swiftly. Ultimately, understanding these simple principles leads to creating intuitive and easy-to-use products. - Abishek Surana Rajendra, Course Hero
15. Have a separate ‘startup’ within the company.
An established company must be willing to disrupt itself because if it doesn’t, another startup or corporation will. Having a disruptive innovation mentality necessitates carving out a separate division or “startup” within an organization with an independent team, its own funding and differentiated KPIs. - Bradian Muliadi, Analisa.io | Social Commerce Intelligence
16. Operate in a high-speed environment.
A startup mentality can benefit teams of all shapes and sizes by operating in a high-velocity test-and-learn environment. Innovation happens faster and more organically, which helps companies adapt to the ever-changing market. Startups tend to be passion- and purpose-driven, with outside-the-box thinkers—this creativity yields the best work! - Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket