Unleash your inner entrepreneur

Therese S Kinal, CEO and co-founder of Unleash, a disruptive innovator in the management education and consulting industry, looks at how an entrepreneurial approach can encourage innovation.

In the old world, being big, structured and process-driven would have meant you were a successful, established organisation. Today, it usually means you are about to lose market share to a company you’ve probably never heard of. 

Up until the last decade, big corporates were so focused on optimisation and best practice that they forgot the crucial thing which fuels business growth and builds competitive advantage: innovation. Now, everyone is talking about it. In fact, 72% of organisations have creativity and innovation as primary strategic objectives and many large companies have implemented structural changes and begun projects to fuel innovation and develop entrepreneurial leaders. But is it really working?
Methods of engagement
The majority of innovation initiatives focus on implementing new structures and processes or using KPIs to influence behaviour. This is often coupled with leadership training, team-building and communication exercises aimed at getting people to ‘buy in’ to the changes. The difficulty with these approaches is that they do not engage people in the process. Today’s employees are savvier, more cynical and, let’s face it, like to think for themselves. 
Culture trumps systems, structures or policies any day. To ignite innovation, we need to win over the hearts and minds of our people and elicit the know-how and passion which is already there. We need to develop entrepreneurial cultures to encourage people to take action and feel real ownership of the business. Most companies have hoards of people who would leap at the chance to do something innovative – if only they believed they really could. 
Let go of the past
To survive, big business needs to let go of traditional ‘top-down’ management and the myth that they can control things. Innovative companies aren’t dictatorships, nor are they anarchies. They’re not merely occupied with increasing shareholder value or making their people happy. Savvy leaders know that the two go together and that an innovative and engaged workforce is not about team-building exercises or lucrative benefit packages, but about creating a working environment that offers purpose, mastery, challenge and autonomy. 
My advice to you: ask yourself what you have done lately to break down unnecessary barriers to innovation and make your team fall in love with their job? 

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK