When running a business, it’s not enough to just have a pioneering entrepreneurial mindset. A business model to match it is necessary, as is a culture that facilitates success from the top down.
As a serial entrepreneur and now the CEO of Mitchell Communications Group, I understand the importance of developing a strong company culture. Besides building camaraderie, this sort of culture enables employees to think outside the box, develop innovative ideas to push the company forward and enables personal growth. But it isn't easy.
Instilling this sense of entrepreneurship throughout your company is a fourfold process:
The first step toward establishing that culture is hiring the right people. While, it’s necessary to have more process-oriented employees who work hard to avoid mistakes, you also need employees focused on driving the business forward. Look for the following when identifying entrepreneurial-minded people: curiosity, an ownership mentality and the ability to take risks.
Of the three, the most important quality is calculated risk taking. Too often, risk takers are thought of as gunslingers who shoot from the hip and ask questions later. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, economist Daniel Kahneman claims there are two ways of thinking. The first is fast, instinctive and emotional. The second is slower, more logical and rational. I want to hire the latter. While speed to market can be critical, I want teammates who are inclined toward making thoughtful, evidence-based decisions. These individuals take smart risks.
So you’ve hired the right people. Now, it’s time to get the best out of them.
Early in my career, I worked at an ad agency. At our monthly company meetings, the best ideas from a suggestion box were announced. Fifty dollars went to the employee behind the winning idea. After submitting a few good thoughts every month, I won, and my ideas were implemented. When my colleagues noticed I was regularly winning and gaining traction, it motivated them to get in the game, too.
Schemes with a wide variety of rewards and recognition encourage innovation. At Google, developers are not only rewarded financially, but they’re also given a round of applause from peers when their ideas are presented. We use a social-employee recognition platform that allows colleagues to give shout-outs online. We also highlight innovative thinking at our all-staff "Bright Spots" meetings.
Push employees to think through the whole cycle of a suggestion -- from the initial idea to its end product -- and you’ll be on the right track.
Hiring the right people and incentivizing them isn’t enough: You have to train them, too. This means bringing people together and asking, “How can we be better?” Once viable ideas are in place, help your employees understand how to identify those that work. The Design Council’s Double Diamond model is a proven process for bringing ideas to fruition.
Allow employees to ask the right questions and encourage a creative process for mining their best thinking. They’ll help build an entrepreneurial culture and improve your business.
Permit your employees to try and fail. This isn’t easy, as most owners believe they don’t have much margin for failure. But an even greater risk is not innovating at all. Recognizing good ideation allows you to empower employees to experiment, making them more likely to take risks and recognize opportunities.