Thinking like a startup is a lot more than just putting table football in the office

Tijen Onaran

Last month, a very successful EASY World 2020 featured a great virtual keynote from famed entrepreneur, business author and speaker Tijen Onaran, founder of Global Digital Women, an international network of female digital pioneers. Tijen was named last year as one of the top 100 most influential women in German business; this is an abridged version of her presentation on ‘People. Courage. Making’

Making people front and centre

Technology is great; we need apps—but you also need to bring your people on board. We have to inspire them to be part of a digital journey; if your people don’t actively participate in these processes and use the tools and HR work processes, then the digitalisation will not help you.

How to make social media work for you

We all now use social media: not just to present yourself, but to stay in contact with neighbours and colleagues. That means it’s so important for a company of any size, on the way toward digitalization, to be active on it. That doesn’t mean that you have to post your food on Twitter or Instagram, or that you should post your dog or cat videos. What’s important is that young people in particular now take a very close look at their potential employers. They are on Twitter and on LinkedIn, and so you have to be there too.

I think it’s always best to take the active role, especially if you’re a small company and don’t have a large budget for PR, then it’s all the more important to work social media. If you have new ideas, new concepts, new products, new events, then communicate through it. You will reach more people than if you are in a one-to-one meeting.

How young job seekers think

Most application decisions nowadays are not made based on a printed career ad, but based on your digital activities. A word from the startup world you may be hearing a lot is Purpose. Young job seekers want to see your values. It’s not important how large the company is for them but, who works there, what do they post? Who do they follow? What are their topics? So, think about your corporate messages: what are your values? Be yourself and young talents will relate to you and they will want to work with you. They have questions like, do the staff come from different countries? Are they diverse? Are there people there who are creative like me, and what are they posting? What do they not post or share?

Why diversity is good business

Generational diversity, experience diversity, and opinion diversity is becoming more and more important. Only having people who look exactly like you and have exactly the same opinion as you doesn’t get you anywhere anymore. Now, it’s crucial to have a diverse team with different genders, different backgrounds, different dimensions…You have to have different competencies around the table, different talents. Next time you meet someone who looks different, look for a dialogue, talk to this person. It’s really worth it.

Becoming more agile is about more than wearing Levis

Many traditional companies say they want to be more like a startup. Some German companies think they can do this by getting everyone to be less formal. But think about it: do you think that leads to more innovation? Do you believe it leads to different thinking about digitalisation and transformation? It can even be counterproductive. A well-known German company heard startups have this table football thing, so they said let’s do that; we’ll be informal, our CEO will wear jeans and be very casual, American style. But when they brought in the table football, they put it in the basement and the key was held by the CEO’s assistant, so every time you wanted to play, you had to ask! Is this agile, is this cool? No.

Don’t try to copy startup culture for the sake of it. Not everything that makes sense for a big company makes sense for a small one, and vice versa; what’s really important is if it’s a good fit for your corporate culture.

Finally, the most important thing I think about falling down is getting up again, and continuing working. I’m an entrepreneur as well. I’m falling down every day—and getting up again.

thedmcollaborators editor

Go here for a link to Tijen’s full online video (in German, but with excellent simultaneous translation into English

Go here for more on EASY World 2020

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