Risk-taking and creativity. Two things which aren’t hard to find in start-up companies, but often become rare and obsolete once a business is established. In many respects, this is a given. Young companies need to establish what makes them different and what will get them noticed. Whilst mature companies know what they do, how they do it, and why the things they do work. There’s less need to take chances and do things differently. Something important can become lost in this however; an entrepreneurial culture. Growth is key for most businesses and expanding isn’t to be discouraged, but how do young businesses turn global without losing their entrepreneurial spirit?
Once a company has become sustainable and steady, the enthusiasm for pursuing ideas of a spontaneous and creative nature dwindles and can become viewed as unnecessary risk. For further growth however, and for the purpose of a creative outlet for staff, these ideas are exactly the elements of entrepreneurial spirit which should remain no matter the size of the company. HBR recognise this, and allow their lab researchers 15% free time to research anything they like. This allows their staff to engage with the concepts which excite them most and illustrates company support of innovation. This method ensures day-to-day business functionality is still achieved but leaves room for new ideas to emerge and keep the company growing.
In young companies, taking risks goes with the territory when looking to grow and expand. Encouraging staff to think outside of the box when they don’t need to can be somewhat of a challenge for mature companies. Incentivising the notion of taking risks is one way to break the employee routine of completing only the safe tasks within their job role. You must take the risk out of risks. Microsoft approach this by allowing whole work teams a ‘garage week’, offering an entire week in which they can experiment with new tech projects in a no-risk, no-expectation environment. With the knowledge that they won’t be personally liable for ideas not working or proving cost inefficient, the constraints are lifted on thinking big. Some of the best new ideas come from the opportunity to simply experiment without the pressure of objectives.
Lastly, think small. This might seem an unlikely business goal, particularly when we’ve previously noted the importance of pursuing creativity for professional growth, but this is a mind-set not an action. Thinking small means keeping a young company mind-set even once you’ve become established and reputable. Many mature businesses lose the staff who have been there since the beginning because, for them, the company has lost the values it had when they began. A transition with a conclusion perhaps best described as becoming a cog within a corporate wheel. Keeping staff responsible, connected and engaged is a difficult task in a business with a vast amount of employees, but it is also important. Succeeding at this task, Google have devised the concept of ‘TGIF’ which forms an open discussion between staff and company leaders so that they may ask questions or raise issues at leisure. This answers the problem many large businesses have in which leadership appear a mile away within the corporate hierarchy for the rest of the staffing unit. Enabling communication lessens the distance.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog post more will soon be following on the topic. Andrea Cartwright, HR Director of Supergroup, will shortly be discussing ‘Great HR leadership in a business on steroids’ during our Round Table Debate in Dublin next month. To stay up-to-date with this and corresponding blog posts, follow us on social media for updates.
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Case studies all sited from hbr.org unless otherwise stated.