Entrepreneurial Spark | Business acclerator and startup progam
Entrepreneurial Spark is the world's largest free business accelerator for start-up and scaleup businesses. Our vision it to inspire and enable positive social change through the action of Entrepreneuring.
Discover how you could run your own business with the support of an established brand at The Northern Franchise Exhibition.
On 21 & 22 June, unleash your inner entrepreneur at Manchester’s exclusive franchise exhibition. Take advantage of over 30 free presentations, benefit from one-to-one expert guidance and find out why franchising has become one of the UK’s most successful business models at this essential event.
You can meet over 40 franchise brands from a dynamic mix of business sectors, including food and drink, property, domiciliary care, retail and fitness. Speak to the teams behind the brands, as well as existing franchisees, and find the right franchise to suit your budget, interests and ambitions.
The Northern Franchise Exhibition is the only event to have the support of the British Franchise Association (bfa). Every single franchise brand exhibiting at the event has been approved by the bfa, meaning that you can explore with confidence that all opportunities offer a viable business format franchise.
Plus, those looking to brush up on their business skills can attend the Growing Your Own Business Conference, incorporated within the event. Attend a selection of free workshops to help you develop a profitable business or get crucial advice from Entrepreneurial Spark in the Growing Your Own Business Hub.
Whatever stage you are at on your franchise journey, from testing the waters to evaluating specific brands, take the next step towards becoming your own boss at The Northern Franchise Exhibition.
Book your free tickets now at FranchiseTickets.co.uk and use the promotional code ESG1 to save £10 on the door.
EventCity, Manchester, M41 7TB.
Friday 21 June | 10:00 – 16:00 – Saturday 22 June | 10:00 – 16:00
People do their best work when they are in their stretch zones. I don’t mean stretched in the way most people use it, which is just another term for “busy” – they’ve got too much to do and don’t know how they will fit it all in. I’m talking about a different stretch. You know the one I mean, where what you’re doing is testing you. Your brain is having to actively focus on it and work it out. It’s challenging, you’re solving problems, you’re learning.
Above all, working in that space is interesting and sometimes even FUN.
When you start a new job you spend a lot of time being stretched, hungrily absorbing and shaping your new reality. The trouble is once you’ve learned how to do a job you get into your comfort zone. You know how to do it, so finding that stretch is increasingly difficult.
As a leader this is a real challenge – how do you keep your team in the stretch zone once they know how to do their jobs? We have seen three common mistakes in teams of all sizes, from a young startup to global corporates.
The first mistake that leaders make is just giving team members too much to do. Take on that new project, increase the target, mentor a new member of the team. Fine, they might find a stretch there, but mostly it just becomes another thing on the to-do list.
The second mistake leaders make is to give them more technical training. I’m going to put it out there – technical training is easy. Learning new facts is easy – once you know it, what do you do after that? How does that knowledge continue to stretch you? Acquiring knowledge is easy, and easy means boring.
The third is to push them towards leadership. Take on additional staff responsibility, do some leadership training. Take the lead on XYZ agenda. I don’t want to repeat the old adage that the best sales people do not necessarily make the best managers, but……. Yeah, that. Not everyone wants to be a leader, so where is the next stretch for your technical specialists?
As a leader if you are falling into these habits with your team, they could be a bit bored, a bit busy, or engaged in the wrong stuff..
The modern work environment needs a new type of stretch, to keep teams interested and engaged with their work. It needs a third dimension, beyond technical and leadership training.
Where should we hunt for this? We found answers in the world of the entrepreneur. Have you ever known an entrepreneur to be bored? Unstretched? Disengaged? And it’s not because they get more technical or leadership training than other people.
It’s their mindset.
Mindset development is the third dimension of stretch. Entrepreneurs have to continually evolve at a deep level in order to grow, otherwise they plateau very quickly. The best entrepreneurs work hard and consciously to grow their entrepreneurial mindset – their creativity, courage, resilience, self-management and social awareness, that help them shape the world around them.
Imagine developing your team like this! The tools are often simple, but the challenge is hard. It’s the type of development where you can FEEL the change when it happens – you know something inside you has shifted and you will never look at the world in the same way again.
And because it’s hard, because it’s a stretch, it’s engaging and interesting in a way that other challenges aren’t. The potential for growth in this space is practically limitless – there is no cap on emotional intelligence or a point after which it stops being useful. It drives every other part of performance. How can you sell without relationship skills? How can you lead without self awareness? How can you solve problems without creativity?
If you want to build a team that is ready for everything the 21st century has to throw at them, light a fire under their mindset.
Sparks ignite in Bermuda as Entrepreneurial Spark launches 20th accelerator for entrepreneurs
Today, Entrepreneurial Spark (ESpark) has launched its 20th accelerator hub, Ignite Bermuda, the island’s first privately funded entrepreneurial accelerator. The launch comes a year after ESpark transferred its UK accelerator network to the Royal Bank of Scotland to be run in-house.
ESpark, headquartered in Scotland, has spent eight months licensing its already-proven product and fitting out the new hub, which is 4,000 square feet of dedicated space in the heart of Hamilton. Ignite Bermuda is a social enterprise, co-founded by KPMG and New Venture Holdings.
The hub will be the melting pot for 15 Bermuda-based entrepreneurs, kicking off in May this year, helping them grow and scale their businesses through understanding the role of mindset and how it is integrated within business growth. From advisors and mentors to a formalised entrepreneurship curriculum to better access capital, entrepreneurs will have access to the professional resources needed to build sustainable businesses in today’s rapidly changing economic environment.
The new venture will operate as a not-for-profit organisation and all services will be provided at no cost to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Successful applicants who earn a place in the program will be able to work in the hub for a minimum of six months and will have access to the professional support services available, provided that they engage in the curriculum and meet mutually agreed milestones.
Mike Stephens, ceo, Entrepreneurial Spark, commented: “The power of collaboration is once again prevalent through our meeting with KPMG which has introduced us to the team in Bermuda. Quickly, a number of individuals expressed an interested in getting involved in creating a new accelerator in Bermuda and we’re excited how quickly we’ve been able to develop this new service.”
“The team has engaged with our purpose, that we are human-centred and that we really care about positive impacts, not just about profits.”
“We’re continuing our mission to build great people who build great businesses, across the world, and working with the team in Bermuda is another milestone we celebrate.”
Applications are now being accepted and must be received by April 24, 2019.
Innovation: Defined simply as a “new idea” device or method. Innovation in its simplest form within an organisation is iterating on a process to improve the quality of the output.
From the work we have been doing with larger organisations, we have learnt a number of different things about harnessing an entrepreneurial mindset to build business performance, one strand of performance being innovation. One of the many pain points of larger organisations is staying relevant in an ever changing market and staying in touch with a constantly evolving customer. Innovation is essential to make sure these pain points are being addressed.
When innovation works, there are key building blocks in place which are embedded in the organisation. We have broken this down to show how you could get to grips with building an entrepreneurial culture and lead your organisation towards a relevant and differentiated future.
At the heart of everything must be the Purpose, Visions and Values of the company. If you aren’t adhering to these and checking the compass for the direction frequently, then you may end up in a place that the whole organisation isn’t bought in to. The compass therefore must be the Purpose, Vision and Values of the company. Each step you take must lead you nearer to the eventual Vision and hold the values dear in every step.
No.1: The first building block and the initial stage in building an entrepreneurial culture is Mindset. Everything starts with a thought and an attitude. The whole company needs to be bought in to change. If there isn’t a shared attitude/mindset geared towards staying relevant and iterating on the current offering, then innovation will fall flat. The right approach must be adopted to think differently, be open to failure, learn from every step and most of all communicate this mindset across the organisation.
No.2: You have to take action. Its great to have the right mindset in the organisation or team, but you have to move the mindset to action. Entrepreneuring is a action word specifically registered by us at Entrepreneurial Spark. It is so important because giving the right mindset a platform to exhibit behaviour is key. The right mindset leads to the right behaviours – its these behaviours which are the action needed to drive the entrepreneurial culture forward. #GoDo
No.3: Creating the right environment for your project or business means that you are able to remove barriers which could stand in the way of performance. Within our accelerator hubs, we created a colourful vibrant co-working environment, which fostered collaboration from an open plan workspace. Entrepreneurs would be removed from the distraction of their home office (kitchen table) and in to a place that inspired people to take action because they could see others taking action around them. Removing your team from their day to day environment, getting out of the building (Steve Blank) and immersing them in an environment that breaths inspiration, creativity and thought will only help to galvanise innovation and lead to increased buisness performance.
No.4: Culture – accepting that being entrepreneurial is a rollercoaster of a ride and being able to ride both the highs and lows are crucial. There will be failure along the way, but you need to learn from it, there will be moments of joy that you will need to celebrate. This all fits in to the culture that is created whilst developing an entrepreneurial organisation. Culture is also exhibited through commonality of language and thought, how people approach tasks and receive feedback. Strongly linked to mindset, culture is king when it comes to being able to think and act differently. Culture is the set of behaviours exhibited when the collective mindset is entrepreneurial. Once entrepreneuring becomes “the way we do things round here”, you have a strong chance at making innovation stick and for business performance to rocket!
No.5: Creativity is inspired by the environment, culture and mindset that is nurtured in the organisation. Contrary to popular belief creativity can be learnt! Creativity can be exhibited in many ways, it doesn’t have to just be a beautiful picture, it can be someone iterating on a process and thinking about a problem differently. Creativity is approached by different personalities in different ways, don’t ignore the quiet ones. The introverts are just as creative as the extroverts. Blue sky thinking and crazy ideas can come from creativity, but its the refinement of the crazy ideas that could just deliver performance in process or business. The environment that you immerse your team in can either inspire creativity or stifle it, creativity doesn’t just happen on its own!
No.6: Innovation doesn’t have to be the traditional “invention” of a new product or service. When the team are creative and are nurtured in the right environment, then new ways of doing things will emerge. It could be a simple process efficiency, or it could be the next big string the to the company bow. Either way, when you have the building blocks before innovation, you give the team every chance of coming up with something special. Innovation is crucial for keeping you and your team relevant in the face of an ever changing market. When you breed innovation then you increase the gap between you and competitors, constant iteration underpins the chances of future success.
No.7: If every step before it has a secure and solid foundation, then business performance will follow. When we talk about business performance this could mean a number of things. It may be that you are able to attract and retain the right talent because you have a clear differential to your hiring competitors. Business performance may also mean the traditional bottom line, If you streamline a process (innovation) and make something more efficient, then you have a good chance at increasing profitability. Business performance is about measuring something and delivering results. Only when you measure the results can you inform the next move. It is this information on business performance, which leads us right back to the right mindset in which to carry out the next iteration and next exciting move forward.
In conclusion the seven step model to build great business performance is a great tool to allow you to focus on areas of entrepreneurial development. It all starts with the right mindset, if you don’t have the right mindset then you will not have the right action to follow. We have learnt so much about the mindset of entrepreneurial leaders that could help larger organisations to stay relevant and iterate in the future and as part of the Mindset Revolution, we want to share this knowledge. If you feel you or your company could benefit from this entrepreneurial mindset. Then get in touch with us today!
Leaders in large organisations are often very experienced. Middle leaders in particular tend to have risen through the ranks and spent some considerable time with the same company. They will often have worked in the team they lead and been promoted based on technical knowledge or high performance in their previous role.
Which is great, isn’t it? That means they know a lot about how the organisation works and what it does, they can therefore manage others within it effectively.
The downside of this is that they can become internally focussed, paying more attention to what happens within their sphere of influence than outside the organisation. If you have only worked for one company for 20 years, then how diverse can your thinking be about different ways of operating?
The result? Culture can stagnate, innovation is stifled by lack of new ideas or protectionism, and change is resisted because things are fine just the way they are, “the way they have always been around here”.
If you are reading this now picturing one or more leaders in your organisation (or maybe even thinking this sounds like you!), then let me paint you another picture.
Instead of going on a training course, that leader steps out of the organisation and goes to work with an entrepreneur on their business. They learn new things, are inspired by the art of the possible, face different challenges and have to help solve problems they have never encountered before. Their brain is stretched, they are a bit scared, and often they don’t know what to do.
But they are nurtured through this journey by an experienced enabler. Someone who can help them understand what’s going in their head, reflect on what they have learned and apply it back into their own role. They return to their job questioning everything – why is this that way? Why can’t we do “x”?
They are energised and look at the organisation with a fresh set of eyes. They lead their team differently and foster a more entrepreneurial culture with fewer perceived limitations. They continue working with the entrepreneur, helping to develop their business and gaining the satisfaction of doing a good thing, as well as a continual flow of new ideas and learning.
The picture I am painting is of learning through entrepreneuring, a new paradigm in people development and business innovation that we will be exploring over the coming months. Watch this space!
There are two key strategies which are driving a new way of doing business, M&A and internal innovation, with change and growth at the forefront. Any organisation which has opted for the latter of these two strategies then finds themselves on a quest to discover, include and support the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, which will help to create this ‘new way of working’. As an accelerator can host and foster either internal or external ideas, this option is fast becoming the route businesses are taking. Accelerator spaces are now a key part of the innovation path corporates and larger organisations are choosing delivering to organisations their ultimate aim of operating and acting more entrepreneurially.
Any strategic and cultural change which involves the introduction of a new way of working requires time, resources and a clear and focused direction, along with commitment from the whole of the organisation. Launching an accelerator is no exception. As well as the more obvious components such as space (on or off line) and a network of experts and mentors to support, to really generate innovative ideas a new way of thinking and acting often needs to take place.
Over the past 6 years Entrepreneurial Spark has set up and operated 13 accelerator hubs across the UK, working with thousands of entrepreneurs, so we have seen and experienced first-hand what does and doesn’t work when creating a successful accelerator. Read on for our top tips!
Start with ‘Why’
In the words of Simon Sinek, ‘Start with Why’.
What is your ultimate aim and what is the driving force behind establishing an accelerator? Is it purely for new ideas and the ‘next big thing?’ Or is it to foster and bring about a culture of entrepreneurialism within your organisation? Knowing your ultimate aim and ensuring all those involved understand and buy into this, means it can then be used to steer you through your accelerator journey. Your “why” should be at the heart of every decision you make. While opening up our 13 hubs we were clear on our “why” and also on the “how”. It was all about taking action and Entrepreneuring! We had the entrepreneurial mindset at the centre of everything we did an it was this that drove us to open a differentiated accelerator network.
Create a community…
Whether you intend to run the accelerator in a physical space or virtually, what will be key to the success of the accelerator and the people within it, is the community you foster. Having a place or forum for your entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs to meet, discuss, support and challenge each other is vital. This safe space must be outside of the established confines of their usual work environment. Creating this community brings with it collaboration and networks, which in turn inspires new ideas and new ways of working – this is what will drive both innovation and entrepreneurialism. Alongside the support, enablement and challenge that Entrepreneurial Sparks entrepreneurs received while in the Hubs, was access to and the opportunity to be part of an inspiring community. Consistently this is cited as one of the most useful and crucial aspects of the hubs and the entrepreneur’s success.
…but not just any community.
You know what they say, ‘hire the right people then get the hell out of their way’. This could not be more true than when creating your accelerator. Whether selecting intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs, it’s not enough just to create a community of people, you ultimately need to create a community of people with the right mindset, attitude and approach. Why? If you are going to invest time, money and resource into establishing an accelerator within your organisation then surely you want it to work! You don’t want to just replicate what you already have, right? While there may be many aspects of your organisation that work very well, the essence of creating an accelerator is to ‘do things differently’, to think and act differently. It’s in this difference of approach and attitude that you will uncover innovation, entrepreneurialism and change. Create a community that is opportunity hungry, one which is open to challenge, individuals who are self aware enough to not get in the way of innovation and a community who, despite feeling uncomfortable, pushes themselves and the organisation forward. When you create a community full of growth mindset entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs great things are going to happen!
Wrap around support
Accelerator programs are opening up every day and most provide resources and education on start-up, funding, mentorship and access to potential investors. So, the overall provision of ‘wrap-around’ support is seen as a basic offering. This is no different for if you are an organisation looking to establish an ‘in-house’ accelerator or if you are looking to create a standalone hub for entrepreneurs. The support, expertise, knowledge and mentorship, when applied correctly instils a culture of entrepreneurialism. Concepts such as build, measure, learn (Eric Ries) and fail fast, fail cheap help to define how your community works. Access to mentors, expertise and knowledge encourages individuals to upskill, step outside their comfort zones and tap into others to understand what they need to do next. The way the accelerator community works and operates compared to that of the overall organisation is often very different…and that is exactly how it should be! An entrepreneurial culture needs to inspire a faster and more agile way or working and an accelerator is a great mechanism to do this.
Are YOU prepared to think and act differently?
While the above factors are key when setting up an accelerator, what is crucial is how you and those in any organisation approach the process itself. Creating an accelerator within an established business is becoming more common but what sets apart those which fly versus those which don’t, is down to how those leading the project approach it.
How committed is the senior management and board level? Have you got the vision and focus to carry you through the first few years? This has to be seen as a long term strategy, it is often only after year 2 before real successes can be seen.
Are you willing to accept the risk that comes with setting up an accelerator? Its going to feel uncomfortable at times! Not just in building the accelerator but also in how those within the accelerator operate and therefore how you will need to operate. Are you prepared to work in a fast paced and agile way?
And what about collaboration? This is all well and good until it means sharing your insights and market knowledge to young, energetic and ambitious founders. Trust is key and again a bigger and wider vision for the future and an acceptance that this will at first feel uncomfortable.
A brilliant accelerator will operate very differently to that of the organisation it is created within – that’s the point! As the community grows the culture from the accelerator seeps in to the wider organisation and a cultural change occurs. As leaders and owners of this, it’s your place to facilitate the right environment and allow the accelerator the freedom to operate. So, don’t try and force ways of working into the accelerator. Provide the autonomy for the accelerator to breath and grow. This will breed innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism and most of all it will give the opportunity for the organisation to drive forward and survive in an ever changing, volatile, competitive market.
The Innovation Pyramid is a guide to allow you to focus on what needs to happen in your organisation to make innovation work. There are 4 components of the pyramid which are all underpinned with having the right mindset. When you have the right mindset in the organisation and everyone is singing off the same hymn-sheet, you create an environment to nurture the right behaviours to build your innovative culture. Use all of the steps to make sure your innovation project succeeds!
We have built this pyramid with number one at the top, when you have all of these steps in place and you reach the pinnacle of innovation at the top, step number 1 will seem easier than number 4. Build the foundations successfully and the pyramid will build itself.
So, in reverse order……
Number 4: Mindset & behaviour – You have to have the right mindset which leads to the right behaviours. You should encourage people in the organisation to operate within specific boundaries, but give them enough room to explore. If they fail within the boundaries then as long as they have learnt something, it shouldn’t be deemed a failure. Celebrate the learning and allow people to iterate and move forward. The mindset needs to infiltrate the organisation, it should be viral and the vocabulary and lexicon of everyone in the organisation should be the same when discussing innovation.
Number 3: Autonomy to Deliver – Innovation teams or intrapreneurs need to have the right to ownership. What I mean by this is that they must be able to deliver an innovation project from inception to production. Yes, there needs to be communication at all times, but in order for a project to succeed, an entrepreneurial mentality needs to occur. Entrepreneurs are focused on the whole project (business), they see the vision and the scope of the project and iterate towards it. A break in the chain towards success will mean a step backwards and a whole new thinking angle. If you give the innovation team autonomy to deliver, they will see the project through and deliver a quality product/offering with a full understanding of the customer journey and development process.
Number 2: Leadership engagement – The stakeholders at every level need to be bought in to the project from the start. Communication throughout the project means that you limit the risk of delivering something that one of the stakeholders doesn’t want. There will be no ta’dah moments in a successful innovation project because everyone will be up to speed every step of the way. This mitigates risk, builds credibility and confidence in the project and builds trust for the innovation team.
Number 1: Vision and values – Every step of the journey must be started by consulting the wider vision and values of the organisation. Use them as guidelines for the project. If you step away from them at any point, step back, iterate and make sure you change course back towards the vision and values. It is crucial that any innovation fits with the strategic and operational direction of the company. Failure to keep one eye on the purpose will mean a failure to get buy in, decrease in trust and increased probability of the project failing.
So, the big question is; Where is your organisation on the pyramid? What do you do well and what are you not doing so well? Its worth learning from previous mistakes and asking yourself where it fell down. If you underpin everything you do with the right mindset and build from there, the chances of success will be greater and your organisation will have a relevant and sustainable future.
In our latest guest blog, Ria Tucker explores how the thinking errors of our leaders can impact innovation. There are some key questions to stop and ask yourself whilst reading this article, write them down and when you are in the throws of operation, take the time to ask yourself the right question at the right time.
How Thinking Errors of Leaders can impact Innovation
“You know you need to find the next ‘big’ thing and want to create an innovative culture to move your organisation forward. So, you’ve pulled together a team of your most creative people, given them 4 hours in a room together to ‘brainstorm’, provided the tea’s, coffees and biscuits and have set up the white board.
Now all you need to do is wait to see what they come back with, right? Errr, not quite”.
Every leader knows, innovation is essential for the survival and success of any organisation, yet the generation and implementation of these innovative ideas is deemed far from satisfactory across most leaders. Well, part of the problem is the trap and general misunderstanding those leaders themselves fall into, when creating and facilitating the right environment.
If you are a leader, who wants to embed an ‘innovative culture’ within your organisation, then an understanding and awareness of the natural cognitive biases (shortcuts our brains take) of both you and your teams will be key to the success of the process.
What these cognitive biases do
The world we live in today is vastly complex and hugely demanding and our brains have evolved over time and learnt from this. To help us manage this demand our brains now take mental ‘shortcuts’ and it is these ‘shortcuts’ that feed our biases.
These biases can work for us and have kept us safe and surviving as a species for thousands of years, steering us away from the unknown, risk and change. However, they can also work against us. An element of the unknown, risk and change are all common factors when it comes to the innovation process and these biases can result in restrictions on our ability to think creatively and innovatively.
Here are 4 of the most common natural cognitive biases leaders face in innovation and some examples of how they can play out;
The confirmation bias
Innovative thinking does not come naturally or easily to most people and humans are intrinsically lazy! With the confirmation bias, we look to confirm what we already believe to be true, whether we are a leader or not. When we are on autopilot and our brain is using the well programmed ‘shortcuts’ it has created, we are not thinking creatively or innovatively, we are closed to new ideas and we are not challenging ourselves. We are instinctively programmed to follow the safest route and that of the status quo.
Questions to Ask:
What autopilot will your team be led by and how can you intervene in this?
What is your autopilot brain saying and doing?
How do you feel about failure? How does your team feel about failure? If the overall feeling is bad, then you have your next hurdle towards innovation right there to overcome.
The loss-aversion bias reflects emotions of anxiety and fear. Our environment has taught us over the years to avoid fear as this means risk and often failure – risk of looking bad, risk of losing our job etc etc. However, mistakes and failed attempts provide opportunities to learn and these can often have been the starting point of innovation. Innovation needs to involve failure and if leaders do not allow failure and if they do not create an environment where the failure is ok, they will kill any future innovation.
Questions to Ask:
Do you promote your employees on the basis of the results achieved or the process?
To what extent can your team tell you the truth?
How are you creating a safe enough culture to encourage innovation?
Status quo bias
The status quo bias can play out in a number of ways. Leaders can often enter into an innovation process with the view that only a handful of people in the business are truly creative. Wrong, everyone is creative given the right encouragement and environment. Its important for leaders to challenge not just themselves but their teams on this. Some team members are more imaginative than other’s, but everyone can be trained and can practice to think more creatively. Utilising all the different perspectives and a good cross section of your business in any creative process, will give real innovation a strong chance. Content teams are said to be less creative, so every team needs those who will challenge the current thinking.
Questions to Ask:
How am I empowering my teams to be more creative?
Have you got the right people involved?
The ‘ta-dah’ moment…
Ok, it’s not quite a bias but it can most definitely impact the success of the innovative process and is one worth mentioning.
Innovation does not need to be a complicated, time-consuming activity but likewise it is rarely something which can be completed start to finish in a 4 hour brainstorming session!
Many new ideas are part of an incremental process which has iterated and failed several times over before innovation is achieved. If you or your team are expecting to achieve the ‘ta-dah’ moment by the end of the week then you may end up giving up before you really get going. As a leader it’s important to set expectations and give creativity and innovation the freedom it needs. Innovation rarely emerges from a ‘ta-dah’ moment. Instead, the best innovative environments are those where a system for continual creation of new ideas is built into the business and pivotal in the way it operates.
Questions to Ask:
How can I reward the process as well as the results?
Am I prepared for there to be mistakes and failures along the way?
What process have I set in place for ideas to generate?
I have chosen to highlight just a few of the common biases but these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of biases which individuals bring everyday to the organisations where they work. Above are the some of the most common which impact almost all at any one time. You may be interested in looking further into the below;
· Authority bias
· Zero risk bias
· Pro innovation bias
· Anchoring bias
Given the uncertain and sometimes risky nature of the innovation process, many of these biases will impact the ultimate success of building an innovative culture and even innovation itself.
As a leader it is your role to understand and be aware that both your approach and the approach of your team will be affected by these sub conscious biases. If you know this then you know that you will need to challenge this thinking to limit its effects. This will then give these ideas and innovation the best possible environment to thrive.
Find out how we have impacted thousands of entrepreneurs with our methodology in our latest Impact Report
In this personal blog by Mike Stephens – CEO of Entrepreneurial Spark, we explore the 4 key building blocks of developing an Entrepreneurial culture. We as a company have been working with many large organisations and we want to be able to share what we have learnt from doing so. We will build these blocks in a series of posts, so be sure to check back for the next key building block each day this week.
Over to you Mike……….
“Thought I would write a quick scrap-book piece about entrepreneurial culture. It’s a term we are hearing a lot of as we explore how we can change the world for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. I can see why an entrepreneurial culture is desirable to large organisations – imagine the entire workforce taking ownership of their roles as though it were their own business! Strategy, innovation, decision-making, all happening at individual level and contributing to the higher organisational purpose.
Of course, most conversations around building an entrepreneurial culture go back to mindset. The way that people think and act determines “the way we do things around here”, which is a broad brush way of describing culture.
I refer to this piece as a “scrap book” because it’s still raw. The insights are fresh from speaking to several companies and third sector organisations. We don’t have all the answers yet, but what we are learning about the key elements of an entrepreneurial culture and how you can develop one, can be discovered here.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people need to know where they’re going. How can they decide if they want to be in the canoe if they don’t know where it’s headed? And this needs bringing to life for them – what does it look like, feel like, sound like and smell like when we as a company achieve our vision?
It needs to be emotive – if you don’t inspire the hearts and minds of your people with your vision then why are they going to get out of their comfort zones and lay themselves on the line to help you create it?
Within your vision you can create bursts of energy and inspiration – run challenges or sprints, put a quarterly business problem out there and offer a prize for the most innovative solution. Give people something to talk about at their desks.
Once people know where you’re trying to get to, then they can jump in the canoe, get the paddles out and start Entrepreneuring® a way to get there.
Call it “empowerment” if you like, at its root is trust. Processes kill entrepreneurial culture because they make everyone act the same regardless of the nuances of the situation. The opposite of ever-more-complex processes is trust. Autonomy and action are at the heart of entrepreneurial behaviours, and without trust neither is possible.
If you want your employees to be entrepreneurial, you have to trust them to do the right thing in any circumstance, or at least to make mistakes that aren’t catastrophic for the business.
When I got my first “serious” job my manager said to me “I’ve recruited you because I back your capability and judgement, not because you can follow a process map. So if your gut is telling you something then go for it, and ask for forgiveness rather than permission.” Empowered? Trusted? Certainly, and I worked hard every day to make sure I was worthy of it.
A common problem with trust is not that leaders mistrust the morality of employees, but that they don’t believe they have enough information to make an informed decision. People are generally good and want to do the best thing for their employer, they just don’t always have the full picture. So to build an entrepreneurial culture, you have to remove the barriers to information so that everyone can make informed decisions when it counts.
“How am I going to fit this in on top of my day job?” is a common question for staff to ask when new cultural expectations come in. Innovation, finding new ways of doing things or even just getting relentlessly passionate about customers – these are bread and butter for entrepreneurs, but practically impossible if your staff are already at 100% capacity (or even worse, at 110%!).
It’s on the leadership to create capacity. If you’re committed to having an entrepreneurial culture, you need to invest in it, and that means people need breathing space. Google famously allow employees 20% of their time to work on side projects. Microsoft build entrepreneurial behaviours into performance objectives, and incentivise them as strongly as any financial metric.
However you do it, people will only change their behaviour if you give them space, development and motivation to do so. In time being entrepreneurial will not be seen as “the extra stuff”, it will become “just the way we operate”, but in the early days it will divert some of your resources and you need to be prepared to make this investment.
Great entrepreneurs are collaborators. They work well with others and use their strengths to get maximum results. The key to this is that they wake up ready to communicate. If you want your entrepreneurial culture to succeed, then pumping up the communication in this area is vital.
This doesn’t just mean top-down communication. The most important area to build an entrepreneurial culture is fostering cross-department communications. New ideas won’t get anywhere if staff can’t navigate the organisational hierarchy and build consensus, and the only way this is possible is to foster relationships across the silos.
What to communicate about? The biggest thing I see missing in this area is failure. Organisations have well-established routes for sharing success – glitzy dinners, intranet pages with voting, vouchers and financial rewards. Entrepreneurs fail a LOT, yet very few people talk about it. If you want an entrepreneurial culture you will need to learn to deal with failure. Where is the recognition for a valiant first attempt? The award ceremonies for all the well-executed ideas that turned out not to be the right ones? Celebrate the work and the process, celebrate the learning, just celebrate something other than success which is only a tiny portion of an entrepreneur’s life.
We don’t want to normalise failure in all areas as this could affect business results, but good communication can destigmatise it in the right areas and enable people to have a go at something new with less fear of reprisal.
So that’s what we have learned so far about the building blocks of an entrepreneurial culture. These need to be worked on in tandem with developing entrepreneurial mindset in staff in order for any movement to have traction. Create entrepreneurial staff and give them an entrepreneurial culture in which to operate, and I guarantee you something special will happen.
Entrepreneurs have become the super heroes of the business world with the likes of Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Bill Gates often listed among the most well-known and ‘famous’ leaders of all time. It’s the impact that these iconic entrepreneurial leaders have had on their respective businesses and globally, that has inspired and prompted established corporates to follow suit in search for their own entrepreneurial leaders.
As far as we are concerned, this can’t come too soon!
But what is it exactly that has caught the corporate attention and stirred them to move towards an entrepreneurial ethos and culture? Are they purely looking to recreate their own piece of the Apple or Disney magic and commercial success (no one would blame them!)? Or are they starting to see what we have seen at Entrepreneurial Spark over the last 6 years. Since working with entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs we have realised that true entrepreneurship is a mindset. It’s not limited to those who start out with their own idea on their kitchen table, its for everyone. When it’s applied effectively it can have the most impactful results both on the workforce and the bottom line.
By tradition ‘the corporate’ survived by focusing on systems, processes and procedures and where possible, has avoided any real risk or revolution. This way of thinking and acting is not going to withstand the future of business. Now businesses aspire to be seen as highly innovative, nimble and agile with a deft skill to adapt and react to changing circumstances. They are looking for first-mover advantage both internally and externally. They are looking for entrepreneurial leaders to help them achieve all of this.
So what are these entrepreneurial capabilities that corporates should be looking for when hiring?
Vision – Entrepreneurs are renowned for inspiring people with their vision, in fact it is often the vision alone which is enough to mobilise an initial team, backer or investor. Their vision is often fuelled by a dissatisfaction with the present and a view of how things should be. As well as having the ability to hold this long term ‘big’ vision, entrepreneurs are relentlessly focussed on what steps they need to take in the here and now to achieve this goal. The ability to think and see outside of the confines that the business currently operates in and possess the confidence and drive to voice their ‘dissatisfaction’, is the bold behaviour businesses of the future need.
Flexibility – Their openness to feedback and their willingness/desire to learn, means that entrepreneurs are not only able to adapt more easily to their changing environment, they are also able to positively thrive in uncertainty. Entrepreneurial leaders need to be flexible and manage the threats and opportunities that they consistently face. They learn quickly to keep up with the unpredictable environment they operate in. Leaders of any future business need to be responsive to change in the global environment and know that they can flex quickly to any opportunities this brings.
Risk – The unpredictable and ambiguous environment that entrepreneurs work in does not necessarily mean they are tougher than their corporate peers. It does show however that entrepreneurs are motivated by and thrive in these types of environments and therefore have a higher comfort level with risk. Future business and the changes it will force will bring with it a high degree of risk and entrepreneurs are better at living with this. They manage any anxiety that it might bring with it react and move forward.
Creativeness – Entrepreneurs are not always exceptionally creative, but they do enjoy the dreaming and creative process. They are more curious than their corporate peers and most importantly, less bound by convention and rules. The same thinking that drives their vision – the view that something can be done better is what also drives their creative streak. The ability to think creatively will bring with it innovation and it is this innovation that will bring any competitive edge.
Ownership (not power!) – The entrepreneur has a desire to be the owner and driving force behind the vision. For them it’s not about power over subordinates, authority or rank, it’s about being at the centre of the initiative.
The above are not the only entrepreneurial characteristics which corporate businesses want to get their hands on, although these are by far the most sought after. Persuasiveness, confidence, strong communication skills, their ability to always be recruiting – be it talent, customers or investors are to name just a few more. However, it is the overall attitude, mindset and behaviour that makes up the entrepreneurial leader and the positive impact they then have within any business that makes them such a desired recruit for the future.
Great leaders, whether it be within a corporate or start up business have a lot of traits in common, and most can learn to flex to the demands of whatever challenges they may face. However entrepreneurial leaders surpass their corporate counterparts when faced with many situations because of their ability to ‘see’ things differently and therefore their ability to act differently. It is this entrepreneurial mindset and approach that sets them apart and that will help to ‘future proof’ both the businesses they work for and them as individuals.
If you want to learn more then get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
See the results we have had using our methodology with Entrepreneurs here