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Think like a start-up, act like one: 9 tips on how to be more innovative in business


Startups are hitting businesses like an earthquake, shaking the foundations that established businesses have built themselves on for years. Instead of running and hiding for cover, businesses can protect themselves by adopting a startup mindset to tackle disruption head-on and become innovators in their own right. Don’t be the next victim of a startup like AirBnb, Uber or Spotify, be future ready.

But what exactly is innovation? Innovation simply means figuring out new ways of doing things to make your existing strategy more efficient or effective. At Mo Works Creative Agency we start the process with critical thinking, questioning the strategies you use and how they could work better for customers. Once you’ve conjured up a plan of attack, you can then pick the right tech to bring your new ideas to life. Being constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve will ensure your business stays in touch with changing customer needs.

The characteristics of a start-up mindset

Start-ups are by no means all the same, but their approach to business does tend to feature a few common characteristics.

1. Speed

Start-ups have a strong sense of urgency because they need to get their product to market before a competitor steals the spotlight. By removing the hurdles stopping new ideas from getting off the ground, you can get great strategies up and running much faster.

2. People-focused

An organisation can only exist if it adequately meets customers’ needs and thrives if it can delight them. Spend time in your customer’s shoes, understand their reality and deliver something that truly meets their needs.

3. Shared accountability

By giving your team a sense of purpose and the tools to collaborate, they will be empowered to do their jobs better.

4. Frugality

In reality, there are constraints and finite resources. By acting frugally, you can minimise inefficiencies and create opportunities for innovation.

5. Curiosity

Question underlying assumptions and ask ‘why’ something is happening. This may stimulate new insights and enable your organisation to find better ways to address problems.

6. Unconventional

Start-ups act as though they have nothing to lose and embrace failure. Failure can drive steeper learning curves and even lead to further growth.

7. Limitless

Organisations often impose limits as a means to protect their past legacy. Explore new possibilities in order to become ready for the future.

8. Embrace fear

New ideas can be daunting, but it’s important to realise that the time you spend scoping out whether an idea is 100 per cent viable is time you could spend testing the product in the market.

9. Design-led

Design is a powerful tool for connecting with customers and establishing a strong point of difference. Thinking about design at every level of your business will help you ensure customers have the best experience possible.

Established businesses have the upper hand

Established businesses are actually in a much stronger position to innovate than start-ups. Businesses generally have stability and experience that startups lack, but your most valuable asset is your employees. Employees are on the frontline of an organisation and are often the best people to spot flaws and vulnerabilities in a system. Listening to what they have to say, and giving them an opportunity to contribute ideas, will act as a strong guiding light for how your business could be improved. This could lead to innovations such as improving existing products and services, entering new markets, finding new ways to service an existing market and developing new products and services.

We only need to look at companies like Nokia and Kodak to see the consequences of failing to seek opportunities to innovate. Existing business who proactively tackle change will be more likely to maintain a strong foothold in the industry.

Tiffany Pun and Elyse Wurm are communications professionals at Mo Works Creative Agency, a boutique agency specialising in communication strategy and digital design.