How to Break Free From ‘Establishment-Thinking’ and Win Like a Startup

‘Establishment-thinking’ slows leaders and organizations to a safe crawl.  

What would you do if you were just starting your business?


Love your customers like you just won them.

Don’t take long-term relationships for granted. Imagine you heard through the grapevine that your best customers are considering a change. What would you do? Do that.

Andy Grove wrote, “Only the paranoid survive.”

Shake up your next meeting*.

#1. Ask team members to come to the next meeting with plans on how they will deal with the three biggest competitive concerns they face. Expect real concerns and solid strategies based in behavioral solutions.

Center the conversation on solutions, not problems. Every time a team member explains why they can’t, ask, “But if you could, what would you do?”

#2. Ask team members to come to the next meeting prepared to offer concrete suggestions to solve vulnerabilities or weaknesses they see in a division or department they don’t lead. Make sure everyone is put on the hot seat. No exceptions.

Expect the smart people around the table to bring their smarts to the meeting.

#3. Refuse to accept ‘no’ in your next meeting or one-on-one. Steven Goldstein writes, “Force everyone to deal with the issue in a positive manner.” (*Adapted from, “Why Are There Snowblowers  in Miami)

Think short-term wins.

Established businesses think in terms of months, quarters, and years. Startups think in terms of days and weeks. Change something today. Why wait until next week?

Playing it safe is dangerous in changing times.

How might you bring startup thinking to your team?

Added resource: “That’s Not How We Do It Here,” by John Kotter. Both Kotter and Goldstein espouse the power of thinking like a startup in their books.

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