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    Coach-Soch: What startup founders can teach big corporates

    Coach-Soch: What startup founders can teach big corporates

    Coach-Soch: What startup founders can teach big corporates
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    By Srinath Sridharan   IST (Published)


    A short business narrative (of a 3 min read) that sets the context, challenge(s) faced, the type of leadership involved and the questions to ponder about, to solve for the issues. This is not to give answers; for business & life in general is not like a school-guide-book. This column is to provoke the reader to think more. And to sensitise that each individual or organisation are unique, and the answers would depend on the situation, difference in organisational culture, context, etc.

    To question, is to think. To think, is to introspect. To introspect, is to seek. To seek, is to be aware. To be aware, is when the journey begins.
    “What startup founders teach the corporates about training … “
    “Learning and development.”
    “Formal talent development.”
    “Career developmental path”
    The usual powerful tools that can impact human development, and add value to careers. Seldom used across industries, except for those outliers.
    Most successful businesses have used these tools and various developmental techniques to improve and enable the true potential of their people.
    Successful startups have done, and continue doing the same. More importantly, the founders spend time and put in effort in tracking these, even in informal ways. They intuitively have a way of trying new people for new roles, sometimes due to the newness of the role and many times because no one else is available to take up such a position. Yet the founders persistently shape and reshape the role to get it right. And, to bring success to the incumbent and to their platform.
    Founders lead here
    Founders read.
    Founders talk to so many people outside of their startup.
    They experiment.
    They observe.
    They unlearn.
    They copy new ways of business and living.
    They copy styles.
    They err.
    They falter.
    But they learn.
    It is simply this way to observe and absorb, constantly, that sets them apart. It is sheer learning in motion.
    They do it, not as a process, but as a way of venture building. And over time, it becomes an intuitive habit for them.
    Yet this simplicity is missed in most of the larger corporates. Despite pompous tags of the training department, learning methodologies, etc, most corporate cultures don’t allow for unlearning and new learning easily. Many a times, those frameworks work for compliance of those policies rather than the spirit behind those ideologies (of developing talent). Do you remember the term “mandatory annual training”?
    Ventures and learning
    Startup founders do not have the luxury of greater resources and in this frugal condition, seek to maximise output and outcomes.
    Working for a startup venture is a steep learning curve. With limited access to headcount, there’s always lot of work for everyone. It’s usual to find employees juggling between different roles and responsibilities, including tasks they have never attempted earlier. This is what makes startups as exciting as chaotic as they can be.
    Startups thrive on faster bounce-back from any setbacks, disappointments, and even poor decisions. In this journey, almost every member of the team handles roles that are usually larger, wider, and adventurous than they would have handled in a conventional steady role in a corporate.
    Unlike established businesses, each talent in a startup makes a difference to the company’s growth and scale. These are critical entrepreneurial skills that just aren’t covered in traditional formal education. Many of these traits are not even captured in any formal or informal knowledge management framework is structured and stable enterprises.
    The constant ups and downs and juggling between roles teach the skills of perseverance, adaptability, and the ability to quickly learn on the job. No wonder the successful startups, as well as core teams of even failed ventures, have richness from their learnings. Their ability to unlearn and learn through structured and unstructured, planned and unplanned, formal and informal methodologies is deep. It is this aspect that makes them resilient and an important asset to any platform that equally respects learning as a process of nurturing talent.
    If one has an idea in a startup, they just have to speak up. In a startup worthwhile, don’t worry about the chain of command or organisational hierarchy. Every idea needs an experimental ground. Startups provide that; without worrying about failures. That’s nurturing newer ideas. Wish more such spontaneity can be brought as a framework to the corporate world.
    Startups, by design, ensure that the employees learn the ropes themselves, by figuring out things as they go along. The self-learning skills they develop as a result will prove to be invaluable.
    Amazing what startup founders can teach the established corporates.
    – The author, Dr Srinath Sridharan is a Corporate Adviser and Independent Markets Commentator. For other articles in the Coach Soch series, click here.
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