Entrepreneurs In The House: How To Get Your Team Thinking Creatively, Acting Independently, and Innovating Confidently

An ideal workforce is one with an entrepreneurial mindset. Why? Because entrepreneurs are drawn to the idea of building amazing things from nothing. They are determined and confident individuals, who love to learn. They are passionate about what they do and they don’t shy away from hard work. These characteristics are the keys to an entrepreneur’s success. Imagine the benefits of having a workforce that shares this entrepreneurial mindset. Visualize the innovations that will ensue and the subsequent growth of your company. Evolving your team will change how work gets done and it will increase your team’s adaptability, enabling them to keep up with the pace of technology. Establishing and encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset within your workforce carries invaluable benefits and there are steps you can take to achieve this transformational goal.

What Are The Benefits?

There are 2 ways to understand entrepreneurship: literally, as in starting new businesses, or symbolically, as in a mindset open to creativity, innovation, independence, and informed risk. Our interest here is in the latter; the entrepreneurial mindset.

● Better Work Ethic:

Employees who possess the entrepreneurial mindset take initiative on their own. They don’t need to be micro-managed and they are not afraid to take action. This leads to higher productivity both within the team and at the managerial level. Where innovation is encouraged, innovation abounds.

The entrepreneurial mindset also promotes adaptability. Employees who are encouraged to create are better able to embrace change. As Twitter has discovered, this trait is essential in today’s ever changing global marketplace.

Twitter has maintained its start-up atmosphere, malleability and innovation, despite becoming a renowned tech company. It attributes its fast, forward moving direction to its extensive leadership training. During training, managers are taught how to keep the entrepreneurial mindset alive within the organization. In the rapidly evolving social media market, Twitter understands that innovation is the key to success and that it needs a workforce that can both adapt and create.

● Better Engagement:

Entrepreneurs are extremely passionate about what they do. They are excited to go to work and they see opportunities everywhere. Employees who are passionate about their work are more engaged and they are excellent team players. They are invested in the company and they are willing to put in the extra work because they want to see the company succeed.

Quicken Loans is known for its highly engaged workforce and its work environment. Its employees are encouraged to innovate without fear of failure. Quicken Loans believes that when individuals are allowed to create they can accomplish remarkable things. “It’s incredible to see what’s possible when you hire great people, empower them and set them loose to innovate and create. It is an absolute honor to work alongside our more than 10,000 team members who bring their passion and energy to the office each and every day,” said Bill Emerson, CEO of Quicken Loans. This ideal has led to growth, innovation, and high engagement rates.

How To Inspire Leadership

Naturally, entrepreneurs exhibit leadership qualities. For most employees, having to embrace and enact the qualities of a leader can seem intimidating. According to Careerbuilder, only one third of the workforce aspires to take on leadership roles, with only 7 percent of those wanting a role in upper management. This is why a company must foster an environment that encourages individuals to step-up and take initiative. Given that leadership is a key factor in the entrepreneurial mindset, how can a company inspire leadership in its workforce?

● Cultivate an Idea Culture:

For employees to feel valued, their company must be receptive to their creativity and to their contributions. They must be given the room to be creative, because this will drive both innovation and engagement. Employees should also be reminded that their time, creativity, and input is valued.

One popular method of promoting an idea culture is to host regular “think tank” meetings. In these meetings, team members can provide suggestions about how to improve certain elements of the company or its products. Give employees a safe, comfortable environment in which to share their thoughts and communicate with them that critical feedback is accepted and will not be held against them. Also, make it known that participation is expected and that everyone must contribute to the conversation. This will help employees as they grow comfortable in their new, empowered roles.

Many established companies have enhanced their company cultures with Think Tank meetings, including Xerox. The company realizes that its employees have much to offer in terms of insight and innovation. It watches closely for ideas that overlap during these meetings. “Several ideas could get combined in a next-generation offering,” says Tom Kavassalis, VP of Strategy and Alliances for the Xerox Innovation Group.

● Share Your Failures:

One of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, Richard Branson, said it best. “Few first ventures work out. It is how a beginning entrepreneur deals with failure that sets that person apart.” All great entrepreneurs deem that failure is a chance to improve and learn. Oftentimes, people are afraid to take risks because they don’t want to fail. For a company to be truly (and consistently!) innovative, its workplace culture must not only be able to absorb risk, it must encourage it! It must also of necessity do the same with failure—absorb it, and encourage it.

● Reward, Reward, Reward:

If you’re going to encourage your employees to think like entrepreneurs, provide some incentives for them. Studies show that most people are willing to work harder if they believe that they will be rewarded for their efforts. What incentives can you offer your employees to inspire them to take on leadership roles and spark engagement? You can reward them with bonuses, vacation time, equity, or a promotion. Get creative!

Fashion company, Eileen Fisher, has embraced a reward culture and it has received numerous accolades for its efforts. Due to the instatement of a generous bonus package, an annual bonus equal to a month’s salary, engagement and innovation at Eileen Fisher is at an all time high. Productivity and work ethic have also seen substantial increases because employees are willing to work harder and make a greater impact on the company to maintain bonus eligibility.

● Invest In Their Education:

Entrepreneurs constantly strive to better themselves. Self‐development and educational tools are instrumental to their success. Employees should be encouraged to improve and to better themselves and L&D initiatives should be founded so that they have the tools to do so. This will ultimately enhance company engagement, performance, and innovation.

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) believes in the power of corporate training. Full-time workers at BCG receive an average of 100 training hours per year. The company attributes its success and the success of its employees to its vigorous training programs. Its employees are able to work more autonomously and, with the instatement of its L&D initiatives, more productively. A company’s workforce needs the proper tools to succeed.

One way upper management can encourage the growth of an entrepreneurial mindset is by exhibiting similar traits in themselves. For example, managers who are willing to put their own reputations on the line by taking risks, accepting failures, and challenging prevailing assumptions, create an environment in which team members feel both safe and empowered to do the same.


Udacity for Business

Entrepreneurs learn by doing. So if you wish to instill and encourage an entrepreneurial mindset (and you do!) you need development programs that focus on the same: learning by doing. Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun has said of Udacity that “We deeply believe that learning by doing trumps learning by listening,” and this belief informs everything we build, including our flagship Nanodegree programs.

Our new Tech Entrepreneur Nanodegree program (built in partnership with Google) is of course a perfect example of this, but every Nanodegree program regardless of subject matter embraces the same outcome-based and project-oriented approach.

Please visit our website for further details.