I started my career working for large companies as a consultant with Accenture and Deloitte, and I quickly learned that most companies have big ambitions but struggle with moving fast and adapting to change.
When I left the consulting world and became an entrepreneur, I experienced the exact opposite. Startups moved extremely fast and could change at a moment's notice. Of course, that also meant they died quicker because they couldn't build a profitable or revenue-generating business.
Fast forward to 2019, and the major tech companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Netflix) are starting to innovate in areas and industries that were traditionally owned by other large companies. This has put a lot of pressure on enterprises to move faster and, essentially, work like a startup.
The book Detonate: Why--and How--Corporations Must Blow Up Best Practices (and bring a beginner's mind) to Survive offers a new mindset that can help businesses stave off disruptive forces. I recently spoke with the authors of Detonate, Deloitte partners Geoff Tuff and Steven Goldbach.
During my conversations with the authors, I uncovered three key points that entrepreneurs and leaders can learn as they grow their business.
1. Make a "Minimal Viable Move," quickly.
Changing how you do business is substantially harder when you have 20,000+ employees than when you're a two-person startup. However, the process to innovate and implement change is still the same.
Goldbach and Tuff say showing proof that what you're doing is working on a small scale is the first step companies should take. They call it a "Minimal Viable Move."
"Start by doing something small and wildly successful. Once you show something is working, the ability to drive change becomes increasingly easier. Spend less time on best practices and 100-slide presentations and move that energy towards forming a team that is focused on building small solutions that prove your hypothesis is correct," says Tuff.
If I were to boil this down to one simple point for anyone creating a new business: Think big, start small, move fast, show value.
2. Hire and promote for passion, empathy, and a bias for action (instead of experience).
The reason many tech companies have stopped hiring exclusively from certain universities and no longer require candidates to have a certain level of professional experience is because the data show these aren't the only factors that determine how successful a candidate will be.
Goldbach has a similar thought process when hiring employees for his group in Deloitte:
"I look for two things when hiring: empathy and attitude. Do they ask great questions, which promote a learning environment? Do they truly listen to their customers and co-workers? Do they have a positive outlook on life and career? Are they naturally curious? These are the types of people that can work through uncertainty and come up with solutions that are effective and don't come from the standard playbooks."
Tuff has this take on how to push employees to be successful:
"You need to hire for passion and give people a combination of freedom to make choices and limited time and resources to deliver. This forces even the most experienced professionals to ditch their best practices and processes and to be truly resourceful when building new solutions."
Successful companies tend to forget how they built the business in the first place. Most weren't born with playbooks and expertise embedded; they were brought to life by people who were committed to solving a problem in a new way.
3. Pull the right levers with intention and foresight to get the change you want.
Once you've identified the change you want to employ in your business, how you act matters as much as what you do. Much is made of bold leadership and willingness to take risks...perhaps too much.
"Businesses are complex systems. Every action you take causes something else to change. When you're choosing what to detonate, think through what behaviors will also change because of your decision. Great leaders are often systems-thinkers who can see the interconnectedness of pulling multiple levers of change," says Goldbach.
Goldbach's point about thinking through decisions because of how behaviors will change is an interesting perspective that I don't believe many business owners truly consider. If you simply react to your competitors without thinking of the behavioral effect it will have on your customers and employees, you might end up worse off than before.