In my time at Ideanote, I have visited quite a few different companies. There is a lot of talk out there about hiring entrepreneurs to fix a company’s innovation problems and help them develop their own “disruptive” technologies.
Some companies are lucky enough to have a flat and open organizational culture, who believe in their employees’ ideas. A few CEOs actually practice an open door policy for new ideas instead of just talking about it. I understand that this is not possible for every organization, but fostering employees’ entrepreneurial spirits within the company is vital to continuously generate new ideas for future projects and retaining talented employees.
To have an entrepreneurial spirit is to have a mindset to continuously seek change. These entrepreneurial minded people are motivated and curious, they enjoy challenges, they are curious with a willingness to learn and collaborate with others while being willing to be accountable and take calculated risks. Most importantly, they take the initiative – they act on their ideas and move them forward. Not all their ideas are successful, but they have the tenacity to keep searching and asking questions, eager to find potential solutions to particular challenges.
When talking to your employees or hiring additional members, there are certain characteristics you can use to identify people who already embody an entrepreneurial spirit. Firstly, they are motivated to seek out new opportunities. They tend to be observant and try and connect the dots to solve a problem. Rather than perceiving their job as a job, they believe they have a purpose, and they are determinate to fulfill it.
This passion is usually combined with a curiosity to learn. It can materialize in experiments or eagerness to learn new information and always questioning why things are done in a certain way. They are also willing to learn from people who have more experience, and they are willing to collaborate with others to accomplish a task.
They understand the importance of action and that success or failure comes from the execution. This understanding also means taking things into their own hands, accepting the risk involved in an endeavor to achieve big goals. People with an entrepreneurial spirit will be trying to exhibit these traits every day, both at work and in their personal lives.
An entrepreneurial spirit is not the same as wanting to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs can also have an entrepreneurial spirit and feel success and motivation in the everyday activities and opportunities to improve the world around them. Others can have personal goals and independence as a priority. These people will focus on their projects and are likely to spend all innovative energy on their side project producing mundane results for their employer.
Employees with a purpose that is committed to making everything better, including the company they work for, will always be more valuable than one who is looking for access to tools. Be careful and don’t be burnt by a few selfish entrepreneurs. Because the others are just too valuable to the company to forget about altogether.
There are ways to encourage current employees who are not entrepreneurial to be so. Not every employee in your organization will develop an entrepreneurial spirit, but it is vital to have systems and processes in place to foster and embrace the ones that do.
Leaders must support their team
Coaching is key. Create learning opportunities to help cultivate employees’ ambitions to grow and benefit the company. Communication is also important. Open up a dialogue on current challenges you are facing – this creates a sense of transparency and trust, which create empowerment and excitement.
Never reject an idea too early. Make sure it is discussed properly and if the idea is eventually rejected, help employees understand why. Learning is a key component and not having a feedback loop for ideas can be detrimental to future idea submissions. Employees need an environment where they know they are allowed to fail. It creates a safety net that can prevent employees from only submitting too safe ideas, which won’t provide new value to an organization.
Have a little budget or time management slack. Connect motivated employees to necessary resources to test an idea or connect with others with fundamental knowledge to move ideas forward. Knowledge access will help them learn from the best while limited resources combined with an entrepreneurial spirit can foster innovation rather than hamper it. This support also encourages driven individuals to be able to take action on ideas.
Supportive Leaders need to be underpinned with systematic idea management processes. A good system will not leave innovating to one-off events but will be accessible during an employee’s everyday routines. This will continuously provide actionable ideas for a company to test further while providing opportunities for development and feedback.
Linking idea generation to specific challenges is also vital. This provides concrete problems for these motivated employees to solve. Stating problems and committing resources to them help communicate the direction of the organization while implicitly stating value and potential actionability of the submitted ideas.
Provide an outlet for employees to submit ideas anonymously. Not all employees with an entrepreneurial spirit are extroverts. Some prefer opportunities to meet challenges without being recognized for their idea. This should not stop them from being included in helping an organization move forward. At Ideanote we were faced with similar issues, so we took action and developed a tool which solves this.
Finally, enable the possibility for those generating ideas to participate in projects resulted from challenges. It will provide learning opportunities and give access to new knowledge, resources, and learning and potentially motivate them to submit ideas in the future.
Hiring entrepreneurial minded people is not enough to succeed as an innovative company. And not all organizations need to be organizationally flat.
But in order to develop with the speed of an entrepreneur, a company needs to find and foster those who are motivated, want to challenge the status quo and take action. Help them with their purpose through providing support, resources and learning opportunities while enabling idea generation through a system that provides regular opportunities for valuable, focused insight that will, in fact, develop better ideas. Ideas which will improve your productivity and increase potential profits. All while creating employees who are driven to propel the organization forward.
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