Our series Lessons from Startup Culture focuses on the ways in which startups have changed the business landscape through the necessity of innovation and outside-the-box thinking. While many larger companies face different challenges, there is still a lot to be learned by examining how small businesses navigate product design, branding, and marketing on a limited (often nearly non-existent) budget.
In this installment, we’ll explore the marketing strategies that pioneering startups have developed in response to emerging social media landscapes and out of a need to build name recognition and introduce new products to their target markets.
In our recent blog, Lessons from Startup Culture: Learning from a Minimum Viable Product, we examined how “the creation of an MVP itself isn’t the revelation – it’s the ability to learn and adjust based on the customer response that results.” One of startup culture’s strengths has always been the ability to take a big idea and pursue it, iterate it, or change it completely in the search for an end product that resonates with consumers.
In this way, successful startups have redefined failure as a pivot point instead of an end point. For larger, more “traditional” businesses seeking agility, there’s a valuable lesson to be learned.
In our first installment of Lessons from Startup Culture, we examined the importance of building a solution, not a product. What’s the difference? Many smart people have exciting ideas for new products but fail to consider whether there is a market need for that idea. In fact, 42% of startups fail because of a lack of market need for their flagship product, CB Insights reports.
A solution, on the other hand, is created based on need: entrepreneurs identify a problem that real people have and build a solution that those people will pay to implement. Here is where one of the most brilliant facets of startup culture comes into play. With limited funding and a short runway to validate their ideas, many companies begin their journey by creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Startup culture is here to stay. Entrepreneurs and innovators have remade the business world in their own image over the past few decades as technological change rapidly advanced and “traditional” businesses struggled to keep up. Even once they’ve made it big, the companies these visionary CEOs started continue to live by the scrappy startup ethos that is baked into their DNA.
What separates startup culture from the traditional business practices it is challenging? What lessons can those of us in more traditional working environments learn from the success of startup culture? I’ll be looking at those questions and more as we explore lessons from startup culture.
I recently came across a fascinating TED Talk given by designer Tom Hulme which asks “What can we learn from shortcuts?”. At first glance, many of us would probably be skeptical of the shortcut – after all, we’re conditioned to do due diligence, examine a problem from several angles, and then create a strategy for building a solution. Innovators should create the shortcut but not necessarily take it, right?
But Hulme is interested in learning from the shortcuts that we take in our daily lives. As a designer, his eye is attuned to patterns and deviations from those patterns. Examining the shortcuts that appeal to us as human beings, he proposes, is a powerful way to learn what drives us, what we want, and how we move through our world.
No one makes decisions alone. Especially in this technologically interconnected age, we are beholden to the interests and opinions of many groups of people: consumers, investors, brand enthusiasts, industry influencers… the list goes on. Each has a distinct point of view, an interest in the outcomes of our decisions, and often an investment of time, money, interest, and even reputation on the line.
When so many parties are stakeholders in the choices made by companies, brands, or influencers, how can we be certain that we are meeting the demands of our many constituent groups? How can we capture and consider the interests of our stakeholders? Enter Stakeholder Analysis – the process by which an organization can analyze the priorities and interests of various parties involved in a project or decision in order to create understanding and build consensus.
Our Design Mindset series has attempted to define some of the many abstractions around “good” design – what is it, and how can it be quantified and consistently achieved? It’s easy to understand the importance of design in creating new products, both to stand out in an increasingly crowded market and to develop a user experience that resonates with consumers. It’s more difficult to implement design in other aspects of business, but the rewards are significant for those that do.
In an article published by McKinsey & Company, designer John Maeda remembers a client who had a realization about the importance of design, saying “Oh, so design isn’t about this pixels thing. It’s about systems thinking… it isn’t just about the appearance.” Good design values aesthetics, but perhaps even more so it values the integrity and functionality of systems. Let’s explore how successful companies bridge the gap between product design and systems thinking.