5 mindsets of startups that drive innovation

Startup mindsets have been shown to drive success and this is often the reason why corporate giants decide to collaborate with them.

Startups usually fail. However, there is no denying that startup minds are exceptionally ambitious; and it is this ambition that is unrivaled in driving innovation and, subsequently, success.

Take Bill Gates, whose first business venture, Traf-O-Data, was a failure, but who today is one of the most successful leaders in technology. His success can be attributed to several factors, but in essence, he has shown that we must make mistakes to learn and succeed.

The startup mentality has been proven to drive success and this is often the reason why corporate giants decide to collaborate with them.

But how many large and consolidated companies have considered innovating like startups do? At J&J we are starting to adopt the startup mentality. This is how we will continue to be competitive, innovative and disruptive. There are key attributes of the startup mindset that I believe are having a tangible impact and, if we are able to successfully adopt them, we could transform the way we work for the better.

Discover the five key attributes of the startup mindset that I believe established organizations should adopt to drive innovation:

Startups exist to solve problems that no one is currently solving; or resolving appropriately. From the way we shop, to how we watch TV and travel from place to place, startups have transformed our way of life. Startup founders are often people who have had negative experiences with products or services and believe there has to be a better way.

In pharma, we can adopt the same mindset and are in one of the best positions to do so for the people we serve. A new pharmaceutical business model -based on the value provided to patients- would inevitably revolutionize our way of innovating.

Success is not always guaranteed, but the entrepreneurial spirit of a startup is something to admire. The open and collaborative nature of startups encourages employees to contribute new ideas, as they often start from a blank page.

The same is not true for large, consolidated companies, which tend to operate in silos and may be bogged down or held back by past processes and (infra)structures. Their processes follow a linear pattern, meaning that employees, while passionate, tend to behave in a somewhat similar way.

Startups are great for putting processes in place that allow employees to contribute their ideas, but at the same time be open to applying them. Individuals have greater responsibility, as their actions have a greater impact on the success of the company, while in established companies, responsibility is distributed among teams and departments, decreasing individual responsibility.

For established companies to break old work patterns, they could start small by creating innovation teams that experiment in a safer environment. Take J&J Innovation Centers, which support and invest in highly differentiated early-stage innovations around the world.

Startups often start by rolling a dice, hoping they win big; and more often than not, startups are willing to roll the dice on low odds. This commonality can be partly explained by the strong vision and passion startups have for their brand. Established companies often have a low tolerance for failure and are risk averse, but it is important to keep risk where it belongs and this is what startups do well.

Startups can also make the biggest mistakes by taking risks, but most of the time they commit to doing it right and this commitment is really important for success. “Failures” are not seen as such, but as part of the innovation process that will lead to a better product.

In pharma, risk needs to be driven in the areas we know, through research and patient outcomes, need improvement. If an innovative medicine or medical device is identified as a patient need, it is worth the risk.

Startups value growth as much as any other established company; but with a strong focus on organic growth over financial growth and a vision to solve a market need, startups have certainly mastered the art of customer centricity. Customer needs are at the center of startup culture and delivering meaningful value to customers in the most effective way is the foundation of how they operate.

Due to their customer focus, startups have become very adaptable, which is really important if we want to be leaders in innovation. They constantly adapt to customer needs and if we think about how much startups have embraced trends in this era of technology – only 0.7% of start-ups in the EU offer a product or service outside line – we will begin to develop a sense of appreciation for what is fueling your culture of innovation.

Focusing on what the customer needs and what they don’t currently get is what drives the disruptive nature of startups. Take the example of Netflix, which has disrupted the television industry by offering nearly 140 million subscribers around the world a highly sought-after on-demand streaming service. Disruption often starts with dissatisfied customers and this is a point worth reflecting on in the pharmaceutical industry.

Our first priority, as stated in our creed, is our patients and their families.

We have to understand the needs of our patients and act accordingly; the obvious needs and the not so obvious ones. However, it must be kept in mind that patient focus alone will not disrupt the healthcare model and we are now competing with startups that are well equipped to reshape this industry. AND

In 2017, 58% of global CEOs who responded to a survey on M&A alternatives said their own industries will be completely reconfigured or greatly influenced by new business models.

Indeed, there are many attributes of the startup mentality that will allow us to drive innovation and success in large established companies. From adopting these attributes to collaborating with startups to drive innovation, there is no doubt that we would all benefit from understanding the startup mindset.

What more can we learn from the startup mentality to drive innovation in our large companies?