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Make Your Startup a Design Masterpiece By Doing These 3 Things


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Let me rephrase Leo Tolstoy by saying, all happy companies resemble one another, but each unhappy company is unhappy in its own way. The first question that arises from the above statement is how would we differentiate a happy company from an unhappy one? It’s simple. The former is an organization where people are excited to work in and work with. About the latter, it’s best left unsaid. The red thread that binds all happy companies turns out to be a crafty design interwoven into all the elements of the business.

When we hear the word design, we often associate it with beauty and function. Whether it be the dynamic user interface of the iPhone or the simplicity of Post-it notes. These products solve a critical user need while pleasing the senses. In other words, design is an amalgamation of science and art. The genesis of that process begins by creating a deliberate form out of disorder. Designers have a knack for seeing patterns that others often miss. Who else delves into constant chaos? That’s us, entrepreneurs, right? That means to build an awesome company; we should borrow the designer’s perspective.

Related: Want Your Startup to Do a Better Job? Avoid These 3 Myths.

Here are a few different tips entrepreneurs can learn from the designer’s working method.

Embrace the design principles

Whenever we explore a new subject, we should start with the principles. We can adopt a design concept called C.R.A.P., developed by Robin Patricia Williams. If ever there existed a perfect acronym, this would be it. You must wade through C.R.A.P. to build a successful enterprise from scratch.

Contrast: Too much uniformity breeds dullness and unproductivity. Innovative teams, therefore, foster differences in opinions and freedom of thought. Complementary skills and contrasting styles make a group rise and shine. By the way, did you find that line sappy? If you answered yes, don’t worry, you and I might still make a great team based on our complementary skills! Repetition: Aristotle puts it best, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not really an act, but a habit.” To project professionalism and achieve mastery in their core business skills, teams must repeatedly practice their craft. Behind every successful product, for example, lies hours and hours of verification and validation tests. Alignment: A perfectly aligned company is like a well-composed symphony orchestra. Perfection rarely exists in real life. But there is no denying that aligning all the elements of a business with its long-term vision and purpose makes for a winning strategy. In a startup, the founders, employees and investors must be aligned with the goals. Proximity: Proximity is power for startups. Just like who you hang out with decides your success trajectory, the ecosystem where a startup exists plays a crucial role in its destiny. The support, shared resources and efficient knowledge transfer makes for a compelling case why smart companies often co-localize. Proximity is not limited to geographic locations only. For example, most social interactions have moved to cyberspace in the pandemic era. The key is to adjust with the times.

The benefits of editing

How does one convert a rough draft into a masterpiece? By polishing its structure and composition. Similarly, how can we elevate our pictures to look more professional? By using photo editing tricks, of course! To achieve perfection, designers meticulously refine their work to remove clutter and keep only the desirable elements. Organizations need regular housecleaning as well, to keep them healthy. Toxic elements left unaddressed may spread like cancer to affect the entire organization. To avoid spillover, be surgically precise in your editing. Adopt the mantra: “Be pragmatic about additions and ruthless on deletions.” Why ruthless, you may wonder. Deletions are usually trickier than additions because of resistance to change. The more deftly you handle them, the less pain you will inflict. Even a diamond needs to be chipped away to sparkle. The result of such hard work? A cohesively functioning organization.

Handle feedback like a champion

Early in our startup days at my company, the team consisted of a bunch of scientists who thought if they could write research papers, a business plan should be child’s play. Imagine the look on our faces as we stared at the red lines covering 90 percent of our masterpiece when we sought outside feedback. Despite the sting, that feedback forced our team to introspect. We did redeem ourselves by winning the world’s largest business plan competition. Looking back, what seemed like an affront to our abilities turned out to be what freed us from the confines of groupthink. Encouraging and receiving candid feedback demonstrates fortitude while discerning what to keep or discard exemplifies wisdom. Transforming feedback into a valuable output remains one of the top skills that both designers and entrepreneurs must master; that is what makes their creations accepted by the market.

Related: 4 Ways to Build a Culture of Innovation at Your Startup

As we wind down our journey into the designer’s method of work, we can see that the lessons for both designers and entrepreneurs begin to converge. I started this article by mentioning happy companies. The truth is that the definition of happiness is subjective. Regardless of how you define it, as its founder, you are the architect of your organization’s destiny. Design it well if you want to arrive at the correct destination.

Related: 8 Practical Tips for Successfully Launching Your Startup

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