Successfully applying Lean Startup in a corporate environment.

Although corporations recognise the importance of innovation and the benefits of the Lean Startup principles, most of them simply aren’t built to do the required messy, rapid work whilst applying a Lean Startup mentality.

"By 2021, more than 50% of established corporations will be leveraging lean startup techniques"

Gartner estimates that by 2021 more than 50% of established corporations will be leveraging Lean Startup techniques at the business level to increase the pace and success of their business transformation.

Slowly but surely, corporations are figuring out how to take the best practices of successful startups and apply it to the contexts of their businesses. Working with corporate clients as a Young Digital Innovator at The Talent Institute I uncovered 4 key learnings that helped me successfully apply Lean Startup within a corporate environment.

1. Get the buy-in you need

Innovation works a lot better if everybody in the organisation, or at least everybody in the same vertical, understands what Lean Startup is all about and works together to create the right environment for new ideas to flourish. Corporate innovators often struggle to get the buy-in they need to act with the agility of a startup, the agility that successful innovation requires.
Involve the people within your company that are affected by your (product) innovations or who might be stakeholders as early as possible. Get them excited about your project and find ways to involve your co-workers so that they are part of helping you build the new business.

2. Get comfortable with bureaucracy

Talking with other departments can be agonising, let alone getting them to cooperate. The bright side is that it can also help you set ground rules in advance, rather than when a critical deadline is coming up and you’re trying to get something done.
Talk to Marketing and figure out what your leeway is with brand guidelines (can you establish an alternative brand to test under or test in a small, specific market?). Talk to Legal and figure out which rules you can break. Talk to Procurement and figure out how to get the tools you need to build, measure and learn from your future experiments. And make sure to get these guidelines well in advance before you actually you need them.

Don't forget: sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission!

3. Perfect, but not perfect

By far, the biggest obstacle with applying Lean Startup is in the discomfort corporate teams experience when building a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and launching it into the world. A cornerstone in the Lean development approach of a new product.

The reason for this discomfort is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of Lean Startup. Building an MVP does not mean launching a flawed product; rather an (alternatively branded) product with just enough features to satisfy an early adopter. The final complete set of features is only designed and developed after multiple feedback loops from the product’s initial users.

4. The freedom to fail

Corporations have spent years building great brands. Brands that whole marketing teams, brand managers, general managers, and other co-workers care deeply about and are willing to protect. Using those brands in experiments, to get a better understanding of your target audience or testing the buying intent of a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) through a fake door” test, might get you a ton of bad press which they won’t find amusing.

“The problem is, if you can’t try stuff quickly, and have the freedom to fail in public without consequences, you can’t take big enough risks”

Building an MVP or product prototype does not and should not mean compromising on brand guidelines, but it does require the commitment and freedom to get messy. Sometimes, it can be easier for corporations to pursue these kinds of experiments or innovations separate from core brands.

Guest blog by Jeroen kamp
Originally posted on

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