If American culture worships capitalism like a religion then entrepreneurs are our Gods. The blurred lines between business, media and pop culture leave icons like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos absolutely untouchable, a tier of their own– they break all the rules, make a new game and still manage to win.
And for good reason! Sadly, we believe that this questioning of the status quo is only for the loftiest minds when really we are all capable of creativity. We each have unique experiences and thoughts, and can then solve each problem in a new way if we press ourselves to be a little different.
This mentality is forgotten too often in our own businesses. “Entrepreneurship” isn’t just developing a hot new app or service (if I see “think Uber, but for X” one more time…) it is taking a critical eye to problems and inefficiencies in pre-existing structures, often within a pre-existing business. Our collective fear of risk and fear of failure forces us to ignore our youthful tendencies of questioning and problem-solving, and allows us to become cogs in our own businesses and our own lives.
Right now in your business, there are needs that aren’t being met– there is an idea for every issue and a solution for every problem, it just may not have been considered yet. While you set the tone for thinking creatively and fostering new ideas, you may have untapped, stifled entrepreneurial resources on your team.
Encourage and empower your employees to think freer and wider. Think new; think bold. To quote Mark Zuckerburg, “the only strategy that’s guaranteed to fail is not taking any risks”.
There are a few practices you can adopt to support innovative thinking in your workplace.
Individuals are often inspired by the people and activities that they love– some time to oneself allows for more focus and individuality. Productivity and job satisfaction have also been shown to increase under more flexible work situations. This includes more breaks, looser lunches, working from home or more vacation time, depending on your industry and culture.
Google’s 20% Time, the program in which Googlers were told to spend 20% of the work week working on any project they felt worthwhile to the company, was criticized by many as not being fully followed or managed. Google’s former VP of HR, Laszlo Bock, writes in his book Work Rules! that what was more important than day-to-day following of the program was that employees understood that change is central to Google’s mission, and their ideas were supported and wanted. While your company may not be able to formally incorporate such a program into your strategy, make sure your employees know that their ideas and feedback are being heard.
Leading with a PURPOSE will give your employees a reason to care. This great TEDx Talk discusses how great leaders inspire action and why the same companies seem to have the most innovative products year after year. Reconnect your employees to why they do what they do and what your mission is and, hopefully, it will inspire them to break out of the daily routine and put in some extra creative considerations to their processes.