The list of companies that once shaped our lives but have long since disappeared is a long one: many people most likely have the first Nokia phone in their attic, sat next to an analogue camera with a half-used roll of Kodak film, and a SABA video recorder. All of these companies were leaders in their sector – but were unable to adapt quickly enough to changes in their market environment. However, it did not have to be this way, because there is a lot of innovation potential to be found in employees themselves – by encouraging them to think and act in an entrepreneurial manner.
Employees with an entrepreneurial mindset can provide crucial feedback
When employees approach things from an entrepreneurial perspective, they take responsibility and view the company as ‘their’ company, even if it does not belong to them. Employees who identify with the company can provide crucial feedback to sustainably improve a process– even if they are not a member of an efficiency task force.
Alternatively, a staff member might not just consider a spontaneous product idea to be a fleeting thought, but instead will pass it on to the relevant department – because they believe in the idea, not in departmental boundaries. In short: people who think in an entrepreneurial way think and act proactively for the good of the company, go the famous extra mile when needed, and look beyond their working radius.
Entrepreneurial thinking cannot always prevent a company from missing the boat on technological developments, but it can at least help to reduce the likelihood of failing to keep up with the ever faster pace of change. However, enabling entrepreneurial thinking requires work from both companies and employees.
Companies can promote improvements or even innovations in a targeted way
Companies are more likely to have bottom-up than top-down processes when it comes to entrepreneurial thinking – in other words: improvements or even innovations do not work well when prescribed from above, and instead are generally initiated in individual departments. However, they can be promoted by the company in a targeted way. This may take the form of institutionalised pockets such as innovation hubs, but elements such as management training for personal exchange and employee motivation can also come ‘from above’.
It can also be helpful to work with external coaches as sparring partners to enable freedom of thought within the company, which employees can then use.
Because ultimately, it is precisely these cultural norms that have a considerable influence on the willingness to innovate within a company. For example, awards can be offered for ideas that rethink part of the business model or develop a new product as a prototype. Such incentives also slowly introduce a culture that allows mistakes and is built on trust. Concepts like these and ‘positive reinforcement’ enable entrepreneurial thinking to gradually take hold.
Personal development thanks to entrepreneurial thinking
People who take an entrepreneurial approach have an opportunity to shape things, even if they are not entrepreneurs: initially, they can shape the company, and then also business and society as a whole in the long term.
Any individual wanting to get better at this way of thinking can practise it, for example via projects, which often enable three principles of entrepreneurial thinking to be tested out for real. The first of these is the idea that fast learning comes from intelligent experimentation – such as A/B testing or prototyping. Secondly, failure has to be accepted as just part of the process. And thirdly, sharing new ideas is more effective than keeping them to yourself.
New momentum can also be found outside the company to achieve or further develop this entrepreneurial mindset. One example would be private initiatives such as associations, where employees can take on more responsible roles and continue their development. However, their network (whether virtual or in person) can provide support. Two or three in-person discussions can often provide excellent impetus. And of course: ongoing further training, both professionally and personally.
Entrepreneurial thinking for self-efficacy
The beauty of entrepreneurial thinking is that it can be productive for both parties – employees and the company. Staying attuned with work and developing self-efficacy can also be a vital step for further personal development. Organisations and individuals would both do well to make the most of their opportunities in this area.
This article was originally published in German by DUP Magazin.
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