An entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily have to own a business — people working in large companies can also be entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a mindset. It is a drive to innovate and start and execute new projects. With technology growing at such a fast pace, innovation has become key for any company’s survival, regardless of which industry it operates in. Fostering entrepreneurial qualities within organisations has become important to sustain a company’s growth.
But achieving innovation in large companies is difficult because of already existing ‘comfortable’ management practices and conservative leaders who are less willing to take risks, among many other reasons touted by experts.
So how can companies foster organisational entrepreneurship? What attitudes and systems can they adopt?
Often, incorporating systems within the company which will make employees feel like they have more autonomy to explore and create, can drive innovation.
In a Harvard Business Review article, L.D. DeSimone, Chairman of 3M, says that the company wants employees to explore new technologies and products that seem promising. So they have come up with a system in which their 8,000 researchers are allowed to spend 15 per cent of their time working on an idea without approval from the management.
Rashmi Shekar and Sitanshu Mai Kashyap from Axis Bank are the brains behind Axis Bank’s innovation lab, Thought Factory, an incubator which is working with startups to help them develop and scale their fin-tech business ideas.
The duo has made a daring leap from being in corporate positions to becoming more entrepreneurial, even within the bank.
In an interview with SheThePeople.TV. Shekar and Kashyap talk about how they were given the opportunity to build a small cross-functional team within Axis Bank. Team members were given the freedom to spend a good chunk of their day engaging in projects that were outside their defined job roles. The team built and took to market some interesting products such as locker booking on mobile, instant personal loans on mobile, digital account opening and happy holidays, to name a few.
This is when the two women realised the immense value that cross-functional teams can have and the seeds for Thought Factory were sown.
Hiring people who have entrepreneurial qualities is one key way in which to build innovation.
3M interviewed its top innovators and realised that they have certain personality traits in common — they are inquisitive, passionate and self-starting. They used this profile to design interview questions for prospective candidates.
Ruchi Bhatia, recruitment branding lead at IBM tells SheThePeople.TV that these kinds of employees aren’t motivated by money. They ask questions, and embrace failure and mistakes. They think and behave like owners, she says.
Employers need to create an environment where employees will not be penalised for failure.
Bhatia says that employers need to “Acknowledge, Identify, Welcome their ideas, Give them a chance and Forgive them for mistakes or failures”.
William F.O’Brien, President of Starlight Communications, says that employees who identify new business ideas should be protected. If they feel the management will react to their new ideas in a negative way, they won’t be encouraged to think out of the box.
Entrepreneurs within an organisation –‘intrapreneurs’– are engaged employees who blaze new trails, and create a new type of leadership.