Lean Startup teaches startups and organizations the world over how to use product and business development to tackle cultural, managerial, and strategic challenges. The following are five easy ways that you, as a company leader, can empower your employees to act like entrepreneurs and create an entrepreneurial culture in your company.

1. Be The Business Disruption

Startup businesses challenge the existing business structure by offering new technologies and ideas that customers need. On the other hand established companies need to keep up with new trends in their markets and competition from other companies. Entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to meet customer demands with services and products.

A great example of this is Netflix. They changed the video rental industry by giving their customers access to movies and TV shows without charging late fees. Companies such as Blockbuster had already lost the fight by the time they stopped to see what was happening. Now Blockbuster is gone and Netflix lives on.

You need to provide internal entrepreneurs (intrapreneurs) with space to experiment and be accountable for learning and understanding metrics instead of just profit. Your team should have the authority to be part of a dedicated and functional group that does what they believe to be best for customers. Perhaps you could even give them some funding to do this, as entrepreneur Kevin Xu demonstrated recently at USC.

2. Put the Customers First

You need to focus on providing customers with solutions to their problems rather than focusing on what the team is good at. Rather than just asking the customer what they want though, you should understand the business model, problem, and opportunity of the customer.

Lean Startup teams work on techniques such as identifying assumptions and using minimum viable products for testing. Such teams provide customers with prototypes, even if they aren't pretty. Getting customers' tough feedback is an integral and important part of the method and is the driving force of cultural change. The days of formal market research and focus groups are coming to an end, when it comes to validating solutions quickly. A customer can give you as many opinions as they want, but it falls on you to focus on how they behave.

3. Be Smart with Resource Investment

If you want your team to have a mindset that has room for productive failure you need to give the leadership team an environment that allows them to understand their process. This allows them to join the conversation and make entrepreneurship an important part of the company culture.

General Electric achieved success with their Growth Boards; groups of people who accept and reject projects. GE put their product teams through a different funding cycle to motivate them and get them excited about different ways of working.

4. Look for Leaders Who Test & Learn

If you want to create that all-important culture of iteration and learning, then you need to find the right leaders. They should be open to the way your company works. Find leaders with deep domain experience that are comfortable managing a large team. Also find leaders that are able to manage horizontally.

5. Adapt and Change

With all the new startups nipping on the heels of large corporations over the past few decades, General Electric decided that they should move with the competition rather than fight it. They got some help from the Lean Startup method and were able to change how they think, work, and act each day.

In the wise words of columnist Heather Huhman, "Employees who think like entrepreneurs, or "intrapreneurs," are more motivated, take ownership of their work, and possess excellent creative problem-solving abilities." Who wouldn't want that kind of workforce?

Published on: Feb 2, 2017