The Competitive Advantage of a Startup's 'Beta Mindset'
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A beta stage allows companies to introduce a product or service into the world. Both the creator and users understand and accept that the release may contain flaws. The creator makes tweaks as necessary without upsetting anyone. A startup’s first few years are similar to beta testing, and this unique phase of operation may hold some lessons for us all.
Turn beta from a stage into a way of doing business.
We’re living and working during the age of startups. Companies are conceived, created and can become successful in a matter of years. Really successful startups are known as “unicorns,” and they’re valued at $1 million or more within their first few years of doing business. Some of the most well-known unicorns include industry disruptors, such as Uber and Airbnb.
Companies like these are different from the average enterprise and the historical concept of a Fortune 500 company because they make a major change in their respective industries. Startups change the concept of business organizations and the way consumers interact with the brand. As new disruptions continue to take hold, businesses must rethink their existing business models. To remain competitive, they need to think like a startup.
Going beta does represent a potential risk. If you start moving faster and encouraging innovation, you’ll make missteps. Rather than seeing this as a weakness, view it as a potential strength. The ability to correct mistakes, bounce back, and keep moving forward is what sets successful companies apart from the competition.
It's what I call dragons - established companies that leverage a startup mentality to innovate its way to profitability.
Sow these beta roots to encourage success in your organization.
To transform beta from a timeframe into a philosophy, businesses must drop rigid hierarchies and barriers to collaboration. Here are six ways to develop a strong beta mentality within your organization.
1. Get on the same page with your customers.
Use the data insights that marketers preach about so heavily. Find solutions to your market’s problems instead of creating solutions first and trying to make them fit. Regardless of size, treat your business as a mom-and-pop shop. Build rapport with the folks, who write your checks.
2. Empower employees.
In a startup, everyone is invested in creation, innovation and success. Foster a culture in which employees feel free to speak openly; try new things; and connect with each other.
Workers, who feel respected and supported, can become strategic partners instead of mere laborers. Companies, such as Google, support employees who want to take time out of their days to try something new on a whim. Encourage employees to use their creativity to find innovative solutions for your business. Then everybody wins.
3. Embrace critical feedback.
Don’t sweep critical feedback under the rug. Ignore overly negative statements, but take the message to heart. Was there any truth to the feedback? If so, how can your business improve? Some people are just being mean, but most feedback contains a grain of truth. Find it; use it; and move on.
4. Drop hierarchical pretenses.
At the end of the day, some people have more say than others. However, you’ll do yourself a disservice if you can’t keep an open mind, and work with others. Even Steve Jobs was ousted from his own company once, and it turned out to be an inspiring turning point in his career. In his famous Stanford commencement speech, he described it as a way to start over and feel the excitement of being a beginner again.
5. Take chances, and move fast.
Find a way to streamline the approval's process. Create an opportunity phone tree, or empower more people to make meaningful decisions. Do whatever you need to do to enact change before your customers move on to a competitor.
Communication allows makes all of the other steps work. The more you avoid closed doors and hushed conversations, the greater the opportunity you'll have to discover insights, and move in a new direction.
Reinvention and adaptability are the keys to embracing a beta mindset. Put down some beta roots to find your competitive edge, and reinvigorate your organization.