How to Murder Innovation & Entrepreneurship in an Organization
Many of us have had work experiences in organizations that seem to stifle all innovation and entrepreneurial energy. Just as entrepreneurial organizations have certain characteristics in common, so do anti-entrepreneurial ones. Here are the things they do to kill entrepreneurial spirit and enterprise:
Play it safe
Encouraging your employees to “keep their heads down” is a great way to ensure that your organization will not be entrepreneurial. The essence of innovation is about making noise in the marketplace, trying new things, and taking risks. An entrepreneur can be found in her client’s office, at a conference, meeting with competitors, and out looking for partners. Not sitting behind a desk playing it safe.
Get approvals first
Organizations that insist employees run all decisions up the chain of command before they can act most certainly want to murder entrepreneurial spirit. In innovative organizations, decision-making is pushed down to the lowest level possible and managers understand that their jobs are to support employees’ risk-taking. Leaders who say, “I’ve got your back” will surely have more successful employees and growing organizations.
Keep people stovepiped
Definitely make sure that teams don’t interact if you want to murder entrepreneurship in your organization. In fact, design your organizational cart and revenue systems to pit teams in competition with each other. Entrepreneurial organizations create structures, policies, and revenue models that encourage cross-team collaboration. Information sharing at all levels is rampant and the organization rewards people for cross-pollination of ideas.
Don’t reward entrepreneurial success and do punish risk-takers
The fast track for murdering entrepreneurship in your organization is to punish employees’ mistakes. Demotions, suspensions, calling them out in front of their peers — all great ways to kill the spirit of innovation in your organization. And not just in the employees who took the risk, but all of the people around him or her. In entrepreneurial organizations, leaders down-play the mistakes of their employees, encourage them to learn from them and try again. Similarly, failing to reward entrepreneurial success can kill off entrepreneurial spirit. Innovative organizations celebrate every success — patents, papers published, new clients, great client service, obtaining advanced degrees and certifications, and other milestones. Financial rewards are wonderful, and certainly use your organization’s bonus and award system to reward success. But recognition is also a powerful reward. Make sure your rewards take place in public, in front of employees, bosses, peers, and clients.
Neglect measuring entrepreneurial success
If you want more of something, measure it. Conversely, don’t create any measures of entrepreneurial success if you want to murder entrepreneurship in your organization. Prosperous organizations create measures for entrepreneurial activity — dollars generated, new clients gained, growth of team — and they make these measures part of the formal review process. They become performance standards that the employee helps to set and then strives to meet.