Issue No. 255 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting highlights a comprehensive book on building an entrepreneurial culture in your organization—by tolerating mistakes. According to the Gallup Organization, “in 1998 an average U.S. professional was receiving roughly 11 Post-it Note messages every day. Stunning statistics for a product that was invented by mistake in the mid-1970s!” Plus, this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
Flop of the Month Award
This fall, as you’re putting your finishing touches on your 2013 annual plan, be prepared for the same old, same old clichés cloaked as wisdom:
--Board Member: “We need more innovation. Just do it!”
--Major Donor: “Your programs are boring. Go hire some entrepreneurs!”
--Young Bucks: “We have a cool idea, but we need $50,000.”
Maybe you cringe when someone plays the entrepreneurship card on your desk. Maybe you even have a tough time spelling the word. But more than likely, an entrepreneurial spirit in your organization could help—but who has time? And what if yet one more product, program or service falls flat on its face?
There’s help. Comprehensive help. Bob Hisrich, a world class entrepreneurial thinker, practitioner and professor, has added another brilliant resource to the literature. This book-as-toolbox has it all.
You certainly know the classic story of the accidental invention of the 3M Post-it Notes. Fiddling with a failed adhesive in 1968, Art Fry tried it on his church choir music and bingo—“today, Post-its are in over 100 countries, in 8 standard sizes, 25 shapes and 60 colors.”
Fry benefitted from 3M’s Bootlegger Rule, which “allows researchers to devote 15 percent of their work time to ‘pursue unique ideas they believe might have merit for the company.’” (How can you not appreciate one of 3M’s core values: “Innovation: thou shalt not kill a new product idea.”)
To stimulate innovation, Southwest Airlines once gathered employees from every area of the company and the group met for 10 hours per week for six months. The result: 109 ideas were brought to senior management, including three major innovations that streamlined operations.
A few pages into Corporate Entrepreneurship: How to Create a Thriving Entrepreneurial Spirit Throughout Your Company, you’ll get tired, then hopeful, then more tired, then inspired, and finally (my bet) you’ll activate a disciplined process for becoming more entrepreneurial. (It’s harder than it looks, but with Hisrich’s help, the path is genuinely clear.)
There are nine key essentials to achieving ownership of the vision for creating an entrepreneurial spirit. Number 2: “Experimentation—trial and error—is encouraged.” You must allow mistakes and failures. Number 6: “…entrepreneurship cannot be forced on individuals; it must be on a volunteer basis and cultivated.”
Creativity—no surprise—is a critical ingredient of creating an entrepreneurial spirit and the book lists eight problem-solving techniques, with short descriptions, including: brainstorming, reverse brainstorming, checklist method, free association, collective notebook method, attribute listing, big-dream approach, and parameter analysis. For reverse brainstorming, “criticism is allowed. In fact, the technique is based on finding fault by asking the question, “In how many ways can this idea fail?” (Raise your hand if you’ve used all eight techniques.)
Hisrich, who has authored or coauthored 26 books and more than 350 articles on entrepreneurship, is the Professor of Global Entrepreneurship and Director of the Walker Center for Global Entrepreneurship at Thunderbird School of Global Management in the Phoenix area. (Claudine Kearney, a visiting researcher at Thunderbird, is his co-author.)
Hisrich knows entrepreneurship and is also a friend of nonprofit organizations and ministries. I had the privilege of co-authoring Marketing Your Ministry: 10 Critical Principles, with Dr. Hisrich in 1990. (Note: To read my 2010 review of his 602-page book, Entrepreneurship, featuring 17 case studies, click here.)
Flop of the Month Award. It’s unlikely that you’ll fast-track your way into an entrepreneurial culture, but you can begin—with the dozens and dozens of comprehensive lists, checklists, concepts and add-water-and-stir ideas. Example: In seeking to build a core value for the “tolerance of mistakes,” (nine markers for entrepreneurial cultures), “BMW has a ‘successful failures’ program that awards employees whose innovative ideas fail during implementation by giving a ‘flop of the month’ award.”
In the very practical chapter on “Locating the Venture in the Organization,” the author lists 14 indicators of a corporate entrepreneurship climate, including: “self-selection, no handoffs, failures allowed, no home-run philosophy, tolerance of risk, failure and mistakes, and patient money.”
There are plenty of full-page hit-you-in-the-gut charts comparing the typical bureaucracy to a true entrepreneurial climate. Guess the title of these behaviors: “Centralization, Autocratic, Inflexible—discretion not permitted, Formal, Emphasis on conformity, Risk Adverse.”
There is no entrepreneurial pie-in-the-sky stuff here. The pragmatic role of politics, and how thoughtful entrepreneurs build paths to success, is addressed with interesting approaches including the art of “bee stinging” (as in “stinging” those team members “most likely to support the new idea before rolling it out to all top management members”).
Peter Drucker said, “People who don't take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” This book will give you courage and a disciplined process for making mistakes on your path to long-term, innovative sustainability.
To order this book from Amazon, click on the graphic below for Corporate Entrepreneurship: How to Create a Thriving Entrepreneurial Spirit Throughout Your Company, by Robert D. Hisrich and Claudine Kearney.
P.S. If your bureaucracy won’t pop for the cost of Hisrich’s book, here’s a free download to help you better understand entrepreneurs—if and when your organization opens the door to an entrepreneurial spirit. My article, “Entrepreneurial Wisdom: 5 Career-saving Principles for Entrepreneurs,” was published in 2010 in Outcomes magazine.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) Your 10-minute assignment in our meeting today, in groups of three: create the generic outline for your entrepreneurial project’s business plan. (Hint: Hisrich’s book lists 30 bullet points in seven major categories.)
2) Remember—we want to create an entrepreneurial culture that tolerates failure and mistakes. So if we presented a “Flop of the Month Award” today, who on our team would be honored? (P.S. The award includes a $50 Starbucks card!)
The 2nd Best Time to Plant a Tree - Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
One of the big ideas in Chapter 14 (The Board Bucket) in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets, is to leave a legacy by growing a great board of directors.
A Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” One thing you could do for your board’s enrichment today is to email them the link to the ECFA weekly blog, “Governance of Christ-centered Organizations.” My latest post asks, “What is your organization’s fair share of the world’s burden?”
NONPROFIT BOARD GOVERNANCE WORKSHOP: AUG. 29, 2012
Simpson University, Redding, Calif., is hosting and sponsoring our next Nonprofit Board Governance Workshop on Wednesday, Aug. 29. Register directly with Simpson University.