How to … become more entrepreneurial

by 07 Aug 2007

HR professionals have a major part to play in helping to foster an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and nurtures flexibility, creativity and innovation.

Globalisation and increased competition, along with television shows such as Dragons Den and The Apprentice, have placed new interest and emphasis on developing an enterprise culture within organisations. HR professionals have a major part to play in helping to foster an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and nurtures flexibility, creativity and innovation.

Possessing entrepreneurial skills can open up an array of career opportunities, not least if you are contemplating moving into HR consultancy or interim management. “The cluster of skills we call ‘enterprise’ are essential for anyone to thrive in the 21st century workplace,” says Kevin Steele, chief executive of Enterprise Insight, which runs the “Make Your Mark – Start Talking Ideas” campaign. “Enterpriseskills are not an optional extra and they are relevant in whatever organisation you work.”

Entrepreneurship is not a personality trait and all of us can grasp the skills necessary to be more enterprising both in our everyday work and longer-term careers.

Where do I start?

The ability to generate and harness good ideas is the bedrock of building an enterprise culture. What kind of ideas and innovations will help your organisation to grow and flourish? What can you do to promote the flow of these ideas and how can they be developed? Who should you get on board to help make them happen? What mechanisms are in place to allow ideas to go from suggestion to implementation?

Cultivate an ideas culture

Everyone in the organisation has the potential to come up with good ideas and all employees should be encouraged to communicate them. Be alert to possible business opportunities offered by such ideas and look for ways of capitalising on them. Engaging senior management will facilitate the progression of ideas but always acknowledge the person who came up with the original idea. Demonstrating that good ideas can make it from the shop floor to the boardroom is a major morale booster.

Ignite the spark

Instigate brainstorming sessions and creative forums. As well as helping you to identify the natural entrepreneurs among the workforce, it will also give those who are more reticent about their ideas a chance to come forward. “Try to identify employees from different levels of the organisation who are full of ideas, great connectors or implementers, and get them on board,” says Steele.

Organise teamwork

There is a school of thought that entrepreneurship is not a solitary activity, and it is the formation of entrepreneurial teams and the resultant collaborative effort that leads to more successful outcomes. “Teamworking is an essential skill,” explains Steele. “Individuals will need to identify allies and forge alliances.”

As you will need to be able to make a case for you or your team’s idea this will also involve having good presenting skills. Even if it is not you who has come up with the idea, the team will need someone to harness the idea and mobilise them into action, which is where HR’s organisational skills can come in. Steele warns that ideas are rarely perfect from the outset and that teams can help to refine them. “Remember that everyone will bring different skills and qualities to the table and these teams should reflect this,” he says.

Be hands-off

As well as giving staff breathing space to encourage creative thinking, allow them the freedom to make mistakes to avoid stifling bright ideas.

And finally

Remember, how well the goals of any entrepreneurial activity at an individual or organisational level are met ultimately rests with managers and their ability to communicate, so work as part of a team and manage people effectively.

Second opinion on becoming more enterprising

By Kevin Steele, chief executive, Enterprise Insight

Check out the lists published in the Sunday Times and the Financial Times of the best companies to work for, and look at what they have done to encourage enterprise. It may not be explicit, but the top-performing companies all encourage these skills and attributes.

Conduct an enterprise audit. You may be surprised at how much enterprising activity already takes place in your organisation, from sponsored events to new ways of working. Think about how you can promote and celebrate this to encourage others to get involved.

What advice would you offer someone wanting to make their mark in an organisation?

Inspire yourself and others to have ideas. The stories of others who have had ideas and made them happen are essential for inspiring people. Promote these throughout your workplace.

Inform - be clear about what you want your people to do to get their ideas off the ground.

Connect - no-one can do it alone. The idea needs to be refined and improved by a group of trusted individuals. Introduce a dedicated employee forum or set aside some brainstorming time for this.

Influence - your lobbying function. Think how as an HR professional you can influence those at the top of the organisation to champion enterprise.

Should your approach differ depending on the sector or industry you work in?

There may be particular industries where you need a rigid rules-based system. But it is rare that something cannot be improved with fresh thinking and new ideas. In the 21st century workplace, successful organisations constantly need to evolve to meet their customers' needs. Enterprise skills are key to competitive advantage.

For more information

Books

Lead to Succeed: Creating entrepreneurial organisations, by Colin Turner, Texere Publishing, ISBN 1587991241

Websites

Make Your Mark, www.starttalkingideas.org.uk

Dragons Den, www.bbc.co.uk/dragonsden

By Scott Beagrie. Courtesy of Personnel Today magazine. www.personneltoday.com

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