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Three lessons corporate IT should learn from startups

Startups and big corporations usually are aiming for the same thing but with different tools… Right until startups turn into corporations and forget some things that helped them develop. It is what some big corporations are now calling “going back to the roots” when realizing that success and scale often bring big problems.

Take Google for example. For years the company only did one thing – grow. And it did it very well. It actually grew so big it was starting to hinder itself. There were way too many projects to handle, resources were being spent faster and faster. Google was in fact going towards a point no company wants to find itself – to have no idea what actually is going on, simply because it was so big it was becoming impossible to have everything under one roof.

So it decided to shake things up. It created a new holding called Alphabet which will actually own Google. Yes, now there is a bigger company than Google that owns the search giant. It will also own all of its other businesses and companies many of which are yet to be formed. They will be split from the “old Google” to be able to function better. It will also give more transparency which business are actually profitable and which are, as Google calls them, on the long term to profitability or yet to be profitable.

The result? The “old Google” will focus on its core and what made it the huge company it is today – online search, online advertising and other online services. This will create a somewhat slimmer company (it’s still Google, so it will be huge by any margin) which is easier to run.

What does all of this mean to other big IT corporations and/or startups? It is a good demonstration that corporate IT has things to learn (or actually “remind” itself) from startups. Like running a leaner and meaner structure. Rorie Devine is former Hailo and Betfair CTO who has worked quite a lot with startups and big corporations. He has other lessons for corporate IT from startups which he thinks are useful and shows startups can be useful insight.

The first lesson, Devine says, is foster optimism and energy attitude in your team. Startups are all about making something big happen. So why should that notion be replaced with typical boring corporate feel or even worse negative culture? The leadership of the company has to set the example of a great attitude, approachability, support. A happy team is a must and will shape the entire corporate culture which will attract more talented people. No one wants to work in a toxic environment and even if they come in just for the big paycheck, that won’t last. For a company to continue to grow and be “big” it needs a motivated and positive team to keep it going. Just like a startup.

The second lesson is test and measure, repeat. Often big corporations simply do things because they think so and because “Who cares? We are so big, they will use us anyway”. Well, they will, until a better startup rises and takes bigger and bigger slices of your pie. Forget hierarchy, politics or other corporate memes. If someone on a junior position has a good idea, test it and measure. Then test and measure again. Your business depends not on who gave the idea but on which ideas actually work.

The third lesson is somewhat tied to the second one. Don’t become a dinosaur. The bigger you get, the leaner you must be. In order to achieve that, Devine says, have small, independent, self-organizing teams with clear goals. Also evolve. Things change all the time and you will have to adapt in order to be on the right track or on your way on the right track. If you refuse to acknowledge new trends and think you are too-big-to-fail, you will fail. Quicker than you think.

Image credit: Flickr (CC) / Heisenberg Media