2 December 2019

Agile as a startup: 10 tips for business innovation

What’s a startup? According to Steve Blank, one of the popes of Silicon Valley, it is “a temporary organization in search of an industriable, profitable economic model, enabling exponential, repeatable and scalable growth”. Some startups have revolutionized their market and their business model makes more than one company dream. Moreover, to innovate, large companies are getting to the rhythm of startups, thanks to intrapreneurs. At the crossroads of startup and large company, an intrapreneur is an employee whose status allows him to work as an entrepreneur while remaining within the framework of his company. So, to innovate in business, how can operational teams and intrapreneurs be inspired by “startup” project management? Here are our 10 tips!

1. To create business innovation, make it simple, act agile

Multitasking hurts productivity, so “do one thing at a time but do it perfectly well” advocates Etienne Gatti, Partner and Director of New Business Acceleration at Schoolab. For a large company, with several business centers, it is impossible to focus on a single product. On the other hand, when launching an innovative project, launch it as a startup would: as a unique product, easily duplicated and specific to a need. The business innovation of a product or service must be obvious: you must be able to explain it in less than 10 words.  

Focus on doing one thing and doing it right

Etienne Gatti, Partner and Director of New Business Acceleration at Schoolab

2. Innovation Management: Trust your teams 

The wealth of a company is its human capital. To make a team successful, you have to be able to rely as much on the skills of people as on their commitment to projects. This is only possible in a climate of trust. The construction of the relationship of trust in an equiq is done with human resources, as soon as recruitment. Management through trust is intended to give autonomy and to empower each intrapreneur on the innovative project, regardless of the difficulty of the task. 

lean startup agility training

3. Create incentives for your operational teams

To stimulate members of operational teams or intrapreneurs, they must feel valued knowing that their work and involvement will be rewarded. Traditional financial compensation is always appreciated. However, it does not generate a sustainable innovation dynamic because the team will be looking for short-term results to receive compensation. Conversely, to foster innovation, management can reward risk-taking and long-term results (by giving more autonomy to a deserving intrapreneur, for example).

4. Use the agile and lean startup method: start before you’re ready

Friends in intrapreneurs, follow this advice from Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn: “If you’re not bothered by the first version of your product, you launched it too late.” Most of the time startup entrepreneurs launch unfinished prototypes as soon as possible, to confront their product with consumers, learn positive or negative reactions and thus directly improve their offer. Several methods, such as Lean Management, Agile Method or Design Thinking, allow you to quickly launch a prototype and put yourself in a real situation with users. Schoolab offers training in these methodologies, aimed at both startups and companies.

5. Be customer centric, listen to the consumer

In launching an innovative product, operational teams must listen to the feedback. By adopting a “customer-centric” attitude, you see each consumer’s remarks as a potential avenue for improvement. 

Do not make by the mistake of some companies that think they can do without the opinion of the consumer (wrongly!). Nokia, for example, has paid the price. Leading the telephony market until the 2010s, the Finnish multinational refused to listen to the new consumer expectations related to new telephony technologies; and the company has not developed a smartphone. As a result, after years of difficulties, Nokia was acquired in 2013 by Microsoft and disappeared from the telephony market. 

6. Outsource all non-crucial tasks linked to business innovation

To innovate, intrapreneurs must be able to focus all their energy on their project. By outsourcing time-consuming activities, you will increase their productivity; outsourcing certain tasks can even reduce some costs. 

training open innovation start up collaboration

7. Ensure a consistent user experience

Consumers need to feel that there is only one product, from marketing to sales to customer service. For example, of Facebook’s 35,500 employees, one team manages events, another is in charge of the “Messenger”, a service takes care of the News Feed… These teams may never have met, and may not even work in the same country; yet they all contribute to the operation of the social network’s only interface. 

A customer relies on their user experience to judge a product or service. To achieve a quality customer experience, the management of a company must ensure that its operational teams know how to coordinate around a coherent project. Thus, the team building is a good tool of human resources; on the one hand, it promotes the cohesion and motivation of a group and, on the other hand, it strengthens the commitment of an intrapreneur. 

8. Think Growth Hacking, Focus on Growth

Growth hacking is set as the only KPI to generate rapid growth on a product or service (via increased sales, users or traffic for example) without having advertising costs or traditional marketing expenses. This method of digital marketing, adopted by any startup worthy of the name (!), allows to make real savings in a business plan. In business, recruitment of growth hackers is still rare, while they have valuable skills to rapidly increase growth, with limited resources.

9. To innovate, be open to business opportunities 

A large company must be open to partnerships as well as to competition, regardless of the size of the company opposite. These two aspects of the market allow a group to develop its business. First, competition proves that there is a market. Secondly, a partnership or a buyout allows to increase its presence in the market and enrich its offer. 

For example, the French startup La Boulange, based in San Francisco and specializing in French baguettes, croissants and pastries, has been bought by Starbucks to expand its food offering. Stay tuned for opportunities that can be a new source of growth.

training open innovation mind game start up collaboration

10. Think about incremental innovations, choose your battles 

“The greatest quality of an entrepreneur is to know what opportunity he should follow, and which ones he must give up” will assure you Etienne Gatti. In large companies, the beginning of an innovation process is often confusing, and aims for a grandiose disruptive innovation, which may not even find a market! However, intrapreneurs can gain market share by innovating through incremental improvements to a product or service. The best strategy for innovating is to identify narrow objectives to enrich the current offering.

Bonus: Reduce your failure rate, have an Innovation Studio

Get along to launch innovations in agile mode and with the Desgin Thinking method

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