By Hendri Lategan, CEO of Swipe Interactive
In recent times we have seen examples of companies going from startup to global empire in a matter of a few short years. Uber and Airbnb are two of the more well-known cases. We have also seen other more established companies reinvent themselves then grow suddenly and quickly.
Netflix, for instance, used to be a snail-mail DVD rental company before being reborn as a world-leading streaming service that also produces its own original, award-winning movies and shows. Today the company is valued at over $70 billion – rivalling media and entertainment powerhouses such as Century Fox and Time Warner.
The key ingredient to their success is that the leaders of these companies embraced the tech startup culture. They created small, tightly knit and highly skilled teams that had the space to test new ideas and adapt or try something else as and when evidence came to light.
This is an approach that even big businesses adopt to become more innovative and quick to respond to opportunities and threats.
Some corporates are doing this by investing in startups in their value chain and allowing them the freedom to experiment without being bogged down by corporate bureaucracy and layers of authority. Others are setting up separate, autonomous units within the business, headed up by a corporate entrepreneur with the vision, hunger and drive to be a disruptor to the status quo.
These companies use the ideas and innovations that come from these investments to create new business lines and transform to remain fresh and relevant to the market.
But whatever the approach, it is important to realise that innovative teams don't need to be big to win big.
The great advantage of a small team with complementary skills is that everyone becomes an expert in all aspects of whatever idea is under development. Eliminating hierarchical layers and silos means that each person has a stronger sense of what the other is doing and can more quickly identify ways to collaborate better and become more efficient.
This requires hiring experienced people. Juniors may cost less, but the know-how of a more experienced hire with a proven track record in a lean, well-oiled team more than pays back the expense.
Adopting the tech startup culture also means creating a work environment where the team isn't punished when expected results do not materialise but is, rather, encouraged to learn and improve. This is where analytics come in handy. There should exist measurable metrics for the project or product, and decisions should be based on analysing the data.
So, while it is true that no business today can afford to forgo innovation, how one goes about it is just as crucial. Lean, experienced, data-driven teams are the magic ingredient to corporate agility.