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16 Smart Strategies Every Company Should Borrow From Big Tech

They’re household names across the globe: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and a handful of other companies are part of a powerhouse group that’s been dubbed “Big Tech.” Companies from across industries look to learn from Big Tech’s agility and innovation. But what specific practices and strategies would businesses be wise to borrow from Big Tech?

Below, 16 industry experts from Forbes Technology Council weigh in on some of the most important, but less obvious, lessons businesses can learn from studying Big Tech. Whether you’re part of the tech industry or not, consider how these practices might benefit your business, too.

1. Setting Objectives And Key Results

Big Tech uses objectives and key results to set goals, measure progress and gain alignment to strategic goals. The original concept for OKRs came from Intel and spread to other Silicon Valley digital natives. It supported Google’s growth from 40 employees to more than 60,000 today. Besides Google, other big companies that use OKRs include Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn and Airbnb. – Richard Knaster, Digital.ai

2. Being Open To Changing Belief Systems

One of the less obvious qualities that I have noticed about Big Tech companies is their ability to make rapid changes to their belief systems based on failure (this has been seen at Microsoft, Amazon and LinkedIn). These changes contribute to their continuous growth. Rapid adaptation also keeps a company’s DNA evolving at a much faster pace — this creates an institutionalized culture of learning, which has been at the heart of some amazing successes. – Himanshu Niranjani, Visible – Verizon

3. Personalizing Solutions For The End-User

I believe we can all learn a little about the power of personalization from Big Tech companies. These teams build experiences that are catered to the goals and pain points of each visitor. We need to pay close attention to how Big Tech is implementing personalization and realize that similar changes to our own marketing strategies could positively impact sales. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

4. Aiming For Diversity

Diversity is key to growing and innovating. Most Big Tech companies have diversity initiatives in place, mainly because they know all the benefits that come with diverse teams: new perspectives, increased creativity, access to different markets and more heterogeneous insights. Businesses big and small should aim for diversity in their hiring efforts as diversity initiatives are beneficial for everyone involved. – Nacho De Marco, BairesDev

5. Building Your Own Technology

The most important lesson is to invest in the capacity to build your own technology. Every company today needs to become a software company. If you don’t have that capability in house, you’re going to have your lunch eaten by those who do. – Brady Brim-DeForest, Theorem


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6. Treating Technology As An Investment

Treat technology as an investment, not as an expense. When innovation gets held up by budget approvals and CapEx versus OpEx discussions, it slows down forward momentum and limits the team’s excitement and the engagement that comes with new ideas. – Amy Czuchlewski, Noggin

7. Creating Explicit Processes

Much innovation is born out of chaos, but many Big Tech companies have explicit processes and practices that encourage consistent companywide innovation. Whether it’s an internal incubator or a mentorship program, don’t shy away from creating business processes for innovation. You don’t want innovations to be a one-off, so invest in processes just like the big companies do. – John Shin, RSI Security

8. Disrupting The Market

For me, companies must learn about digital disruption — identifying where existing solutions have matured and going beyond customer need to find a fresh opportunity to introduce a new approach to fulfillment and “reset” the market. The best-known example of this is how Netflix disrupted the market Blockbuster was in, but vendors recognizing an opportunity to disrupt the market through a new, innovative approach happens all the time. – Al Kingsley, NetSupport

9. Investing In Marketing And Communications

The Big Tech companies are in the news for agility and innovation because they have incredible marketing and PR teams that get them in the news. Smaller companies that may have the same — or higher — levels of agility and innovation need to focus on strong marketing and communications strategies to gain exposure for their company, products and services. – Amanda Dorenberg, COMMB

10. Rewarding Strong Performers

Big Tech companies look to hire the best people, and then they reward those people appropriately. They implement strong meritocracies that keep high talent engaged and innovating. – Michael Adler, N-able

11. Being Flexible And Resilient

While agility is a key factor in achieving innovation goals, leaders should also focus on flexibility and resilience to succeed in the face of disruption. With these core tenants at the helm, leaders can rethink and create new ways of working, implement new business models, and address changing customer needs — ultimately driving agility while also instilling purpose. – Jeff Wong, EY

12. Entering Growing Markets

Big Tech knows that execution is instrumental in stealing market share and gaining traction. They are not deterred from entering a market even when someone else is already doing it. Either through improved functionalities, marketing or acquisition, Big Tech focuses on playing to win in growing markets. – Dan Merzlyak, London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG)

13. Experimenting

It is the willingness of the Big Tech giants to experiment with technology that sets them apart from traditional organizations. Rapid experimentation helps an organization achieve a learning curve that subsequently acts as a catalyst to innovation and growth. Even if initial attempts fail to produce a minimum viable product, firms must persevere. – Sayandeb Banerjee, TheMathCompany

14. Balancing Control And Freedom

Teams should not be forced to follow traditional bureaucratic processes but should rather be allowed to try new approaches that may appear “wrong” from the firm’s perspective. This allows the employees to try new ideas without the fear of being victimized in case of failure. However, mechanisms should be put in place to keep them in check and avoid the misuse of freedom. – Roman Taranov, Ruby Labs

15. Being Customer-Obsessed

One important and less obvious lesson other businesses can learn from big tech companies is customer obsession. The best company I know that demonstrates this core value is Amazon. From small and humble beginnings in 1994, Amazon has become the third-largest tech company by market cap. The one thing that seems to drive its continuous and insatiable agility and innovation is customer obsession. – Bob Fabien Zinga, Directly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve

16. Having An Appetite For Risk

One of the main things that separate Big Tech from traditional businesses is risk appetite. Big Tech businesses are hardwired to take lots of risks and are set up to then invest heavily in the ones that pay off. This approach is what makes them fast and agile — bureaucratic risk aversion doesn’t get an opportunity to take hold and slow the pace of innovation down. – Mark Cameron, W3.Digital

What do you think?

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