Je suis startup

We need to get into a startup mode.
We need to act like a startup.
We need a startup mentality.
Oh, if only we could be like startups!

Every once in a while I run into representatives of well-established Finnish companies who voice these types of concerns. Startup companies seem to have the energy and dynamic mindset that just about everybody wants to emulate, no matter how big (or old) the company. That’s completely understandable. And there’s nothing wrong with looking into the modus operandi of somebody like Supercell for benchmarking purposes — that’s one way to learn.

But there’s no turning back the clocks and starting from scratch if you have a pulp mill or if you build 500 apartments a year. Clicking the mouse won’t put any insulation in those walls.

Actually, the startup mode is easy enough to simulate. You get your team together and take away salaries, titles, responsibilities and families. That should clear the calendar sufficiently so that you can iterate and innovate and pivot and pilot to your heart’s content. Because, let’s be real here for a second, that’s the true startup mode.

Understanding the difference, however, between the way an established company works and how a startup works can be tricky, because some key terms are misinterpreted. For example, the agile development model is considered to apply to all startups, but that’s not the case. Startups can be rooted on various growth-seeking models, and, on the other hand, old dinosaur companies can have a go at agile development, too. There’s no rulebook that says you can’t.

Nevertheless, there are things in the startups’ playbook that could be a great fit for your organization, too. For example, the lack of hierarchy in startups is highly appealing and could help revitalize an established company. In Finland, however, “best idea/argument wins” is a fairly common practice in companies big and small, so hierarchical issues are not a huge problem here (although they still do exist).

The second thing that dinosaurs could learn from startups is speed. For instance, product to market can take forever in an established company, while startups are hellbent on getting the product out there yesterday.

So it seems that even an old dog could, conceivably, learn a trick or two from these flashy youngsters. And the best shortcut to that coveted startup mode: buy a startup.


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash