Think like a start-up: Four ways to encourage corporate agility

Innovation is a growing firm's lifeblood. Those that innovate successfully will be tomorrow’s big corporates

But too often that culture of agility and innovation is lost as companies grow. Here are four ways you can encourage this to flourish again:

1. Embolden experimentation

Big companies over-focus on how every pound and man-hour is spent. This can kill the ability to question assumptions and generate new ideas. Instead of analysing every project’s ROI before it even begins, try giving employees more of a free rein when it comes to problem solving. Focus more on what gets done and less on how it happens.

2. Fail quickly and safely

Provide spaces for these ideas to incubate and grow, and create a culture that reduces employees’ fear of failure. Ideas will be tested more quickly and cheaply – and jettisoned sooner in the event they are not going to make the grade.

3. Recruit for potential

Start-ups can rarely compete for the most experienced candidates. Instead they must focus on potential, trusting that staff will grow with the role. By sometimes hiring for potential over experience, big companies can help avoid industry groupthink and bring fresh ideas that will help challenge the status quo.

4. Shorten lines of communication

A start-up’s small team and working quarters mean management and frontline staff are constantly communicating. This helps create a collegiate environment where people feel safe to share thoughts and ideas. By making their own lines of communication shorter, big companies can encourage and reward disruptive thinking. Mix up the seating plan, make internal communications more social and fun, or hold off-sites in informal environments where rank is suspended for the period of the event.

Jon Hulme is an entrepreneur and co-founder of online subscription start-up Craft Clubs, encompassing the brands Craft Gin Club and Bubble Club

Further reading

HR's role in organisational agility

The enemies of agility