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The Startup Secrets for Success in Enterprise L&D

Sep 02 2021

Big companies usually have renowned expertise and enviable resources, but it goes without saying that there are many seasoned enterprise C-suite veterans that pine for the entrepreneurial spirit and energy of startups. Who wouldn’t like the freedom to ‘move fast and break things’ as per the motto of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, back in the early days of the world’s most famous social media network? 

Disruption, agility, and the ability to pivot and innovate at the drop of a hat -  particularly in the technology landscape -  hold a certain je ne sais quoi. I know, because I’ve had the opportunity to work in both big corporates and fast-moving startup success stories. 

What I’ve realised is that, for the most part, large enterprises are unlikely to benefit from adopting most of the typical startup ethos. There is no point in introducing disruption for disruption’s sake. You can put as many keto-inspired canteens and playground slides a-la Google in your office as you like, and you can experiment with management styles and employee flexibility in all its various forms. None of this is going to replace a well-thought-out and time-tested business strategy that drives profitability. 

However, L&D is one area where that startup spirit stands to introduce demonstrable benefits to large-scale enterprises - if applied strategically of course. If enterprises can introduce startup-style innovative thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and agility to learning, they may just have scratched the best of all worlds. 

If you can choose one place to drive innovation, why not consider learning and development? We already know it can be a big driver of profitability, and that there is every opportunity for learning to become the biggest economic contributor in any company. 

Act Like You Own the Place

I learned a lot of valuable career and life lessons from my days at Accenture which I still use today, and hands-down, in my experience, it’s the one company that truly lets its employees bring a real entrepreneurial spirit to the table. 

It’s a great way to attract and retain talent that values the freedom and the ability to work independently. Regardless of a company’s size, every employee should feel that their ideas matter and that they have the ability to shape their roles and identify new opportunities. 

There’s nowhere this is more valuable than L&D, and it’s something that’s at the heart of the Fuse platform. Fuse is built on the power of tacit knowledge - that is, knowledge that you do not get from being taught, or from books, but knowledge that you get from personal experience (for example, the knowledge you pick up when working in a particular organisation.) 

In Fuse, we encourage our clients to tap into the tacit knowledge of their super users, and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and to share this by creating bite-sized videos based on that knowledge, articles and presentations for the platform. 

It’s the ultimate exercise in entrepreneurship, with employees creating, sharing and adding context to one another’s tacit knowledge. It’s knowledge delivered at the point of need, to solve real business problems. Our client Scandic has SMEs doing quick presentations Masterchef-style to promote the best of best practices in food and beverage. 

Avon, another Fuse client, boasts 75% user-generated content. As Avon’s Digital Experience Director Andy Stamps says, it’s the secret to real engagement: 

It resonates in a way our own content doesn’t because it’s one beauty rep passing information to another beauty rep who needs it. That’s a great way to build peer-to-peer trust and it makes for a more engaging learning experience.”

Across all our clients globally, 95% of the content created is created by people within the business - how’s that for entrepreneurial spirit? 

Move Fast and Accomplish Things

Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘move fast and break things’ era was exciting. It was a bit like the old quote from Olympic gold medalist figure skater Tenley Albright, who said, “if you don’t fall down, you’re not trying hard enough.” 

But like all eras, the one of idealised and accelerated breakage is long over. In fact, it was as short-lived as Facebook’s student startup stage. Companies don’t need to dwell on the ‘fail fast’ concept to move quickly. What they really need is rational, tested business strategy, executed as quickly as possible without unnecessary delays.  

Make no mistake: everyone knows that end-to-end, large enterprises are never going to be as nimble and agile as startups. But L&D is an area where our enterprise customers are moving faster and introducing more innovation than some of the most successful startups we read about in TechCrunch daily. 

It’s because Fuse promotes agility in a number of ways. Firstly, our approach is based on knowledge, not courses. The Fuse platform is built to deliver knowledge at the point of need, in the flow of work so that you can apply and use what you learn when you need it. 

One of the top reasons many employees leave large enterprises and flock to startups is because they are tired of long processes, bureaucracy and a seemingly glacial pace of change. The appeal of a startup is the ability to affect change quickly to see the results of applied knowledge and ideas. You don’t have to break anything, but there is an appeal to moving fast like Facebook. 

In keeping with this knowledge, ask yourself: what would your team say if they could switch to a model where, say, only 20% of their training was formal, course-based training, and 80% was delivered as knowledge at the point of need? I bet you already know the answer. 

This agile, nimble approach to learning compliments many of the granular performance models our clients have. Hilti is a great example. Each employee contributes to the company’s overall targets which are measured quarterly and annually. I discuss this concept further in my post, No Excuses: Learning Should Be Driving Profitability. The basic idea is that knowledge can be consumed and applied in an agile way, and that measuring this can also be granular enough to implement change over a short period of time if need be. It doesn’t need to take five years to create the recipe for success for demonstrable, profitable L&D. 

Driving Innovation at Scale 

It’s a myth that large enterprises can’t innovate. Some of the most successful companies of all time were started by really creative people in their garages and dorm rooms, with plenty of innovation happening to drive them from startup to multinational success stories. 

What large enterprises really have going for them is the ways and means to drive where they want to innovate, at scale. What I hope this article has shown is that L&D is an opportunity ripe for innovation and that with the right learning and knowledge engine, large enterprises can tap into new revenue-generating streams. 

If you’d like to hear more about our many enterprise L&D success stories, get in touch today. To learn more about how knowledge in the flow of work can help your company harness entrepreneurial spirit, agility and innovation, download our ebook, 5 Ways to Power Learning.

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