11/19/2012 02:57 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2013

Applying The Start-Up Mindset To Your Company

Sitting at my desk, I quickly go through my email messages before heading out to the R&D lab, when I receive an urgent phone call from another department. Apparently, some parts are failing inspection, and there is widening panic that products will not be able to be completed by their due date. In one fell swoop, I recommend utilizing stock parts that we have in the lab, which have already passed inspection, while we order replacement parts. All at once, I had just averted three meetings, numerous emails, and a flurry of reports, protocols, and a multitude of signatures, finger-pointing and discussions.

This is an example of the "Start-Up Mindset" in action.

What is it about large companies (or small ones that run like large ones), that every issue has to be treated like a world war? Is there some underlying rule that states ".... All large companies must generate numerous, time-wasting tasks, required by multiple groups to complete, for every problem that presents itself"? What part of any large company actually believes that useless, illogical tasks and documents are needed to solve problems? And who really thinks that bureaucracy and red tape make a company better? Furthermore, is the company so mistrusting of its employees, that it makes every person sign and witness stacks of documents, that are meant to hold up in federal court if the need arose?


There seems to be an inherent comfort zone that gets built into companies, that causes people to lose their sense of logic. This comfort zone is one where people agree to cover themselves, and protect themselves from blame or firing. The problem is that the comfort zone has nothing to do with benefiting the workers - it's sole mission is to protect the company, first and foremost. The strange thing is that most employees follow it blindly, much like a herd of buffalo blindly running over a cliff to their deaths.

Any situation begins with one person noticing something that is not right. The Start-Up mindset is to "minimize the number of people involved, and focus those who are involved to generate a quick, simple solution". There is no need to send out a million emails, or involve countless departments, documents and divisions, to solve a problem.

Many people wonder how small start-ups of 3-5 people are able to turn a company into successful corporate giants like Google and Yahoo. All one needs to do is to understand HOW that small group of 3-5 people functions as a team; to see how they disposition problems and issues quickly, cleanly, and without much hassle or red tape. One will find that these small groups generate such efficient problem solving; with sincere positivity and the intent to help instead of shoot down, a generous helping of trust, a slathering of humor, a strong feeling of ownership, and an indelible sense of what the goal of the company is.

When everyone pushes the boulder in the same direction at the same rate, no hill is too steep to overcome.

It's always tough to do the right thing. It's even tougher to admit to a group when something is wrong, for fear of what retribution or punishment might come of it. But any company that does not thoroughly address the bureaucratic, red-tape-laden, finger point driven CYA metality, will watch their company slowly flounder, and their best employees slowly leave for better environments... no matter how much revenue flows into the corporate coffers.

The next time you're forced to write five reports documenting "the results of moving a workbench from one corner of the lab to the other corner of the lab", stop and ask yourself "why in the hell is this even necessary?" - you'd be surprised just how many people just do what they're told, without even wondering.

Be willing to take the lead in your organization, to raise your hand, to guide the herd away from the cliff, and apply the Start-Up mindset to your everyday life.