How does a legacy company avoid being disrupted? Hire like a startup

The people's digital revolution
Are start-ups wiping out legacy competition? Some are, but many older organizations (like Philips which celebrated its 126th birthday in 2017) have shown exactly why they’ve been around for decades, even centuries: they keep reinventing themselves. They’ve survived many cycles of change by sensing emerging trends, taking risks and redefining who they are. By continually innovating and adapting business models, organizations can continue to thrive, while attracting and retaining the best talent.
We often laud advances in technology as the driving force of innovation, but it’s really the people that design, integrate and deliver the solutions that determine the success of new businesses. Start-ups have long held the ethos of putting talent first, often leading them, in David versus Goliath fashion, to surpass more rigid organizations. For many established companies, creating an entrepreneurial mind-set can be difficult. There is often a sense of immediacy that tends to prioritize short term product improvements over break-through innovations. Complex processes, rules and heavy governance may stifle creativity.
By fostering a culture in which individuals can exercise entrepreneurship, while working towards a common purpose within a well-defined framework, organizations can find their sweet spot.
At Philips we know that we have to continue to improve our core business, but at the same time stimulate emerging digital businesses. We enable the right leadership and venture-like approaches so we can push the boundaries of what’s possible. By fostering a culture in which individuals can exercise entrepreneurship, while working towards a common purpose within a well-defined framework, organizations can find their sweet spot: growing both their legacy and emerging businesses.
It is their fresh ideas, agility and new skillsets that make millennials indispensable for digital business. Their desire to make a difference and their inherent curiosity can be directed towards great propositions. In fact, a recent conversation with Robin van Dalen, a Venture Manager at Philips, is testament to this drive to have an impact. She told me that she joined Philips specifically to realize her dreams of having a tangible, positive effect on the world, and she is doing so at our Africa Innovation Hub. Robin develops inclusive, innovative projects aimed at expanding access to healthcare. Listening to millennials, like my own son, Aki, and daughter, Kim, I can see that many young talents are drawn towards networked organizations, where they work in multi-disciplinary teams. Great organizations are rarely siloed; they have flourishing networks that open up countless opportunities to learn and grow.
As the first generation of true “digital natives,” millennials typically have a strong affinity for technology and innovation. Some of the work at Philips concerns disruptive tech, such as AI and IoT, but it is all about supporting our mission of improving the lives of billions by providing innovative health solutions.
Millennials tend to be drawn to open, inclusive cultures; cultures that aren’t defined by hierarchies and bureaucracy. That means enabling project teams that have a real purpose and provide a sense of belonging, so talent can safely bounce ideas off one another and creatively solve challenges. A recent survey detailed that the five factors employees care most about in their job search are company culture, location and commute, team compensation and benefits, and the opportunity to learn new skills.
This rings true for Vickram Sharma, who was my chief of staff for nearly two years. I found his youthful perspective helpful in dealing with some of our major challenges. His current role involves project-based work. Like many of his peers he finds it refreshing to continually seek new opportunities and challenges. Working with lots of different people in a collaborative way really makes him thrive. Restlessness can be common when you’re starting out in your career and can last until you find that one thing that does really inspires you. For millennials like Vickram and my children, it’s the fast-paced, cross-discipline work in an agile environment that makes them enjoy their time from Monday to Friday.
On too many occasions I’ve seen millennials described as ‘entitled’, which I think is largely untrue and not representative of so many driven young people. Having worked with many talented individuals, my view is that it’s those who are unwilling to adapt that pose the biggest threat. It’s important to remember that people and businesses alike must invest in millennials or risk being left in the dust. 
An organization’s success is built on its people and its legacy. If you give talent the opportunities that allow them to rise to the occasion, you help ensure they are doing what they love and loving what they do. From there, you create a culture and environment where people thrive, and in turn, so too will the company. 
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