Start up culture not just for the new kids

May 10, 2016 happy-admin

By Bonnie - April 29th 2016

Beyond the ping pong tables, bean bags and (win!) lack of corporate dress code, what is it about start up culture that is so energising, and how can established companies turn things around?

Think like a start up, act like a start up

As Samsung focus more on software development than hardware manufacturing, their executive leaders have just signed a pledge to pivot the company from a traditional corporate structure in order to operate more like a start up. They aim to cut back on superfluous meetings, reduce overtime, flatten the hierarchy, encourage employees to spend time with family or pursue professional education opportunities. Not an easy feat for a 300,000 person company; their successful evolution will certainly pave the way for other global companies to overhaul their bureaucratic and outdated practises.

Here are 5 rules to foster a start up culture without printing hipster team hoodies (although that wouldn't hurt either):

You can't duplicate start up culture

The reason the ping pong table and beer fridge are synonymous with start ups is they create a sense of community. It doesn't drive ownership in the team or push agile practices and product delivery to the forefront of mind. It's all about energy, passion, individuality, personality, collaboration, and authenticity- the home-like spaces allow the team to feel at ease and bring their personality into work rather than leaving it at the door. There is no recipe for start up culture, they don't follow a guided business model and that in itself is what defines them- trying what works, pivoting, and inventing new ways until something sticks.

Be the Queen and cut the tape

Start ups are inherently lean, so when you are 4 people doing the work of 8, collaboration is crucial. Any red tape, approval process or limitations need to be considered for their impact on efficiency and innovation. Letting go of many of the rules and trusting your team have the businesses best interests at heart will go a long way in pivoting to a more nimble framework. With a lack of structure however, drives the need to instil accountability.

Innovate, not replicate

Encourage innovation and listen to all ideas, big or small. New employees tend to have the freshest eyes, so incorporate a feedback or no-holds-barred honesty session into your on-boarding procedure to harness these ideas and emotions.

Distributed leadership

Start ups nail the distributed leadership model. Mega-start ups such as Google and Facebook value the flat heirarchy, but how achievable is it when transitioning from a more bureaucratic model? How do you create an organisation where people make moral decisions on their own, in line with the company's ethos, or adopt a growth mindset without a manager guiding them? Flat organisations have a bottom-up and tom-down decision making model with radical transparency around decision making. The focus is on empowerment and freedom rather than chain of command and approval processes.

You can't expect your people to run with innovation when there is no transparency of purpose and vision

Communication is also crucial in a flat heirarchy for people to collide and brainstorm ideas. Freedom of movement such as hot desks, breakout areas are great for encouraging people to interact with those in different areas of the business. When there are no titles or no bosses, everyone needs to step up and lead for a flat hierarchy to be successful.