Disruption, disruption, disruption. A term that once meant something has now been relegated to ubiquitous jargon across all industries. “The Uber of x”; “Software is eating the world”; “Facebook is eating the world.” It feels as though everyone should fear imminent swallowing.
While disruption discussions are often focused on technology, there’s a larger, looming trend at play that is fueled by the growing ease with which you can start a business: everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. The Great Recession sent not just the older generation reeling, but millennials too, with the lasting impact leaving younger generations thinking, Why work for someone else my entire career only to see the perceived security evaporate?
We’re in a negative cycle where the workforce has lost faith in their employers, so they keep one foot out the door and look to jump ship as soon as there’s a remotely better opportunity on the horizon. Predictably, employers are reluctant to invest in and nurture talent now that job-hopping has become the “new normal.”
Companies are left with two options: the revolving door can keep spinning, or employers can begin to get more out of their employees by encouraging their entrepreneurism, while simultaneously strengthening their bottom line and making their businesses more competitive.
Ingenuity is human nature. Everyone can be creative, everyone should be viewed with potential to be creative and everyone should be empowered to be creative. Given that everyone has the potential to identify problems, seek opportunities, and find solutions -- everyone can be entrepreneurial.
While this might be a hard transition for companies to make, there are simple structural and programmatic changes that could help create more internal entrepreneurs while also fostering improved communication and loyalty.
Trigger team building.
Build cross-functional teams with the mandate to find improved ways for various departments and disciplines to work together and collaborate.
Survey landscape, solicit feedback.
Conduct surveys, routinely, with increasingly creative metrics to inspire people to assess the organization in new and different ways. Also, provide space for anonymous comments and offer people the chance to confidentially express their opinions. This can be paired with monthly meetings in which (interested) employees are asked to come prepared to speak about potential issues around the office with proposed solutions.
Create access, accountability and atmosphere.
Design spaces around the office that foster conversation, spontaneity, randomness. These should be fluid spaces where employees can talk, draw, create, and collaborate -- who knows where creativity will take them. As collaboration sparks ideas, allow employees to take ownership and feel accountable for their initiatives or engagements by handing over the reins on innovative projects. That way, companies can capitalize on the energy and inspiration that those projects provide.
Rewards and rapport reap benefits.
Offer rewards or incentives for individuals who take a risk -- regardless of whether they succeed or fail. Taking chances will drive the organization in a positive, more entrepreneurial direction. Companies can also host a book club with the focus of bringing in new, different, eclectic ideas and viewpoints and, in turn, run ideation sessions in tandem. Or, if that proves to be a challenge, bring in outside speakers to talk about different types of disruption -- whether it’s industry-related or not -- which will provide insight into how other companies are innovating.
Promote personality and passion.
Host innovation days where internal groups, or even outside disruption firms, are asked to identify and propose solutions for problems. To foster the sense of reward, facilitate contests for entrepreneurial proposals attempting to solve an agreed upon problem and inspire people to participate. Additionally, encourage employees to find passion projects, even if they are outside the office.Then invest in their interests, allowing them to grow. You’ll find that they’ll (overwhelmingly) bring those projects right back to the companies that support them -- and a rising tide lifts all boats.
Is everyone an entrepreneur in the sense that they are scheming to start their own business and set off on their own? Absolutely not. But that’s no reason not to treat employees as entrepreneurs, to empower them to challenge themselves in order to find solutions or improved ways of working. If companies don’t disrupt from within, each passing day brings an increasing likelihood that external influences will force disruption on them, with less than favorable results.