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How can Organizations foster an Environment of Entrepreneurship at the Workplace? Developing an entrepreneurial culture at the workplace therefore no longer remains an option, but a necessity to win the business race

By Pooja Mehra

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"When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust people to get the job done, we get leaders."

—Simon Sinek

Leadership guru and bestselling author Simon Sinek believes managers must go through a transition to become true leaders. But, very few organizations create an environment that facilitates this transition. Most companies continue to rely on the outdated command-and-control model, which fails to tap into the talent that has the potential to pursue their innovative ideas and create greater values not just within the organization but outside as well. As a result, the feeling of ownership among employees reduces, which results in plummeting organizational efficiency and positive work culture. In today's constantly evolving and fiercely competitive business landscape, nurturing gifted employees who can execute new ideas can be pivotal. Developing an entrepreneurial culture at the workplace therefore no longer remains an option, but a necessity to win the business race.

How easy is it to develop and drive this entrepreneurial culture?

Like any disruptions, practising such a bold and enterprising philosophy is never easy and requires major efforts across all levels in an organization. The senior management should lead from the front, and encourage a spirit of ownership among employees—much similar to the role of the captain in a sports team. This pragmatic vision must be steered by the organisational processes and ingrained in the management style of every department head. Most importantly, the talent in the organisation should be stimulated and inspired to act, think, learn, share, engage and produce to deliver the desired results.

However, all of this requires an environment where employees are allowed to pursue their passion, identify opportunities, make decisions, take calculated risks and inspire others to follow suit. Technology behemoths such as Google and Amazon have always promoted entrepreneurship ventures at an individual level. In fact, ground-breaking products such as Gmail and Google News have resulted from the company's 'Innovation Time Off Programme', in which employees are encouraged to devote 20% of their workday to independent endeavours.

As corporate 'intra-preneurship' initiatives become a more common phenomenon, let us find out what are the measures companies can take to expect more entrepreneurial behaviour from their employees. Encouraging new ideas, identifying employees' strengths are the basics, but going beyond the well-worn paths and taking a radical approach ultimately makes all the difference.

Responsibility is what responsibility does

At a time when businesses are wrestling with unprecedented risks, disruptions and economic and political upheaval, it is essential for companies to foster agility, adaptability and reskilling. Organizations must develop models which enable employees to explore opportunities and not restrict themselves to their current roles. Those who demonstrate the knack and capability for handling more responsibilities should be given the freedom as well as the resources to achieve their vision optimally. On the other hand, employees who are yet to reach such a stage should be facilitated through a similar decentralised approach and guidance to reach such an operational level quickly.

Expecting success but rewarding failure

Fear of failure or atychiphobia is the biggest obstacle to innovation. "Try big, fail and fail fast' is the attitude adopted by some of the most successful new-age enterprises and start-ups. Celebrating failures encourages employees to innovate, explore and take risks—the key ingredients that make an entrepreneur successful. This is why most companies have done away with an outmoded culture that frowns on failures, and replaced it with one that rewards people for failing.

Co-contribution is the way to go

As crucial it is for an employee to diligently pursue the organisational goals, an organization should also help the employees to attain their personal goals. Managers should have periodic discussions with their employees to understand their long-term and short-term goals, and offer them the financial, emotional and psychological support. This will lead to a culture of co-contributing, where employers and employees work in tandem, as part of the bigger system.

These factors are among the many that foster an appetite for creativity, innovation and smart risk-taking among employees, which are essentially some of the foundational pillars of entrepreneurship in an organization. In order to channel this entrepreneurial spirit, organizations need to put greater faith in the ability of their teams to try, and succeed, at new, even offbeat things. It is up to the employer to determine whether he/she is just laying bricks to build a castle or a cathedral, and as Rabindranath Tagore famously said, "We are all kings in our emperor's kingdom, if not, how and why would we think alike?"

Pooja Mehra

Managing partner, EverVantage

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