Lena Gaede

Partnering up – let’s change perspective! 5 keys to success for corporations when collaborating with startups

The larger a business grows, the harder it becomes to champion innovation. Deep-rooted routines and long decision-making processes can keep a business from realizing its full potential. But there is hope! Thriving startups are driven by entrepreneurial energy, excitement, creativity and a killer desire to change things for the better. So, why not partnering up with a startup to ensure a fresh breeze?

But how do you guarantee success?

Corporations, listen up: here are our 5 tips for the collaboration with startups.

#1: Be open to innovation

Changing the organizational DNA of an established business is no mean feat. For one, long serving employees are likely to resist change. It’s going to take energy and lots of it, but with the right ideas, confidence and top-down leadership the workforce will quickly become re-energized and therefore more productive.

Of course, innovation is not just about new product ranges; it’s about working smarter, developing new business models, new leadership styles, and a firm commitment from the board to introduce positive change for the benefit of all.

To fulfill this often-monumental task, it is crucial to first distinguish between two types of innovation that require different management strategies: Type I (small, short term innovations) and Type II (radical innovations, mid or long term). More concretely speaking: Type II innovations require companies to make clear choices and substantial investments in a greater extent than Type I innovations do. They may prove to be a bad fit for the organization or disrupt the current product offerings. As well, a return on investments may be unpredictable – as an entrepreneur, one should be prepared for that.

#2: Do away with hierarchy

Hierarchical management is becoming a thing of the past. Successful lean startups often empower their entire team by doing away with tiers of unnecessary management. This is the modern way.

The millennial workforce in particular wants to feel the company’s pulse as much as the board of directors, and why deprive them of that when they are so eager to succeed. The days of the hierarchy are numbered and often surplus to requirement – if you want to inspire innovation from the post room right up to the CEO’s office, empower your workforce by ensuring they feel less of ‘a number’ and more of an important cog in a well-oiled machine.

#3: Allow your people to develop

Since you can’t institutionalize innovation, there is little sense in setting up ‘innovation departments’. When you alter your ethos to champion innovation across the organization, you’ll find that the best ideas come from every facet of the business; ways to reduce waste, right through to hugely valuable business models and new products. The role of the modern CEO is to drive innovative ideas and enterprising minds at every level, then recognize and reward them. Make time for creative, technical and entrepreneurial minds to meet and watch the opportunities and energy levels increase to exciting new levels.

#4: Keep things simple

When considering setting up collaborations between big businesses and entrepreneurial startups, don’t get lost in details too early in the process. Keep things simple and the top line ideas flowing. Start by empowering someone you trust to ‘own’ the process and inspire the ongoing conversations between the various parties – this makes communication simpler.

#5: The central objective is to create value

Arguably, the most important outcome is to generate value from your combined ideas, whatever that may look like for your business and its stakeholders. So, it goes without saying that choosing your partners carefully is incredibly important and can mean the difference between success and failure.

As with any relationship, be prepared to work hard in order to get the most out of them, and always revert back to the central objective of driving value if you feel things are slipping.

 

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