Over the past 10 years, there’s been a mass migration of fresh tech talent wanting to work in startups. Being part of the team that turns a product idea into a thriving business has a huge appeal. Early-stage businesses have become known for their experimental approach and lean processes.
But legacy businesses also have a lot to offer. Cross-functional teams, teams with years of experience, and clear career trajectories immediately spring to mind.
In our recent event, Keeping up with the startups, I spoke with product leaders from Lego, BT & GoCardless to hear what legacy businesses can learn from startups when it comes to building the best product teams, and the best products.
One of the things that undoubtedly gets a lot of product people out of bed in the morning is the idea that the work they’re doing has the ability to make a real impact on its users. As Becki Lake, Head of Product at BT puts it: “We want to work on products that sit close to our hearts, that build change and make waves.”
Of course, not every product is going to be altruistic or disruptive by nature but that doesn’t mean it can’t still get your product team buzzing. And DEI presents a big opportunity.
It’s actually a skill to involve DEI in product and, unfortunately, it’s not yet embedded in our practice.
Making DEI a product priority is one way to inspire a team, irrespective of your product’s value proposition, and build a more inclusive product.
“It’s actually a skill to involve DEI in product and, unfortunately, it’s not yet embedded in our practice,” says Serena Chana, Product Manager at GoCardless.
Start-ups are renowned for being super collaborative. People get their hands dirty, and everyone’s ideas are welcomed. And this kind of psychological safety breeds creativity and brilliance, which can’t help but filter down into the finished product.
As I said during the event, "Psychological safety builds relationships, makes people comfortable, and enables them to be more successful because they know that they can try things out".
Becki Lake agreed: “Culture doesn't start with beanbags and beer on a Friday. Culture starts from psychological safety and from knowing that you have the ability to fail fast and learn.”
Culture starts from psychological safety and from knowing that you have the ability to fail fast and learn.
And according to Yshira Kelly, Product Lead at Lego, “Failure tends to drive more excitement than anything. It's sometimes the failures that are the big wins.”
A key selling point for legacy businesses is that individuals are often exposed to stakeholders and workstreams outside their discipline.
Beyond product peeps developing their own business acumen, cross-functional teams also provide insight into the wider company objectives, often resulting in a product practice that is focused on outcomes rather than outputs.
Yshira Kelly suggests that legacy businesses should also lean into the opportunity their size affords: “It’s around the learning opportunities in terms of honing a particular skill set. I think product managers in startups or scale-ups tend to cover a huge breadth of stuff. Whereas when we're in big corporate companies, we have the opportunity to go really in-depth and hone our expertise.” And giving talented people the opportunity to finesse their skillset, can only improve whatever’s being shipped.
When we're in big corporate companies, we have the opportunity to go really in-depth and hone our expertise.
Still on the subject of size, legacy businesses should also champion what this means from an audience perspective. According to Found by Few’s CEO and Co-Founder, Ben Elliott, “When you go to a bigger business, the reach is already there. You could be impacting millions of consumers.”
At the end of the day though, as Ben puts it, "It's not about big businesses are good, startups are bad, or startups are good, big businesses are bad; it's understanding that even when places do things differently they will still share similar challenges."
Listen to the full conversation with Becki, Yshira, Ben & Serena on YouTube and find out more about the opportunities for product teams at legacy businesses.