Intrapreneurs & fostering creative thinking… Big business with start up agility.

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Business moves fast, trends come and go and we are all looking for that magic spell to help us to move with our markets as fast as our competitors.  Agility as individuals, I believe, will be the only way that we can survive in the ever changing workplace going forward but we also have to explore how we can improve business agility for all.  I have long been interested in how large companies diversify and having worked in large corporations and very small businesses alike I have seen first hand how hard this is to call, and have also been there when it was too late and we all packed up and went home.  This made me ponder whether the agility of mind of individuals throughout the hierarchy was the key to the overall agility of the business.

Building a business with 5 one-man-bands

The start-up, agile, pivot if it doesn’t work mentality of the eventually successful entraprenuer seemed a good place to start.  I came across the  ‘intrapreneurialism’ research from the CIPD (below) and was intrigued as to how this could work in practice. They state; ‘Intrapreneurs’ usually work in larger organisations, where they are tasked with developing new ideas and concepts in a similar way that an entrepreneur would in a start-up company’. (What Big Business can learn from Entrepreneurs – CIPD 2013)

The UK’s economic growth could be boosted if large firms adopt the entrepreneurial spirit that drives success in start-ups and small firms, CIPD research has found and by encouraging a culture of ‘intrapreneurialism’, big businesses could help their employees adopt entrepreneurial behaviours that foster innovation and growth, (CIPD).

They also discovered that nearly four in ten employees would welcome the opportunity to take on an intrapreneurial role within their company, but that just 12% of organisations encourage and facilitate such behaviour (CIPD 2013)

Of course the father of ‘Intrapreneurialism’ is Gifford Pinchot who comments that he has seen a resurgence of the intraprenuer in recent years and cites millenials as the most visible group.  Pinchot says that they are searching for meaning in their work from the moment they leave university and want to make a difference.  This isn’t surprising though, after all this is the generation that has lived their whole adult lives with the awesome power of the internet and it’s heroes, Google, Facebook, etc. and are looking to emulate that working life.

Another great attribute that intraprenuers/entrpreneurs are seen to exhibit is adaptive persistence, this allows people in existing organizations to anticipate disruptions to the market and to recognise opportunity (Bloomberg 2008 )

Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame had adaptive persistence.  On Shultz’s travels to Italy he had seen the power of the barista and wanted to bring that coffee shop experience to America.  He presented his idea to Starbucks who rejected it on more than one occasion.  He finally got approval to try it out in a few branches.  He went to raise equity for this and was working without a salary for a while!  His wife was pregnant and although he thought he was ready to give up, he didn’t.  Schultz was able to leverage his network to stave off threats  and stuck with it.  We all know how this plan worked out!

The data appears to stack up that we need diverse teams (Is there an ‘i’ in Team?) and intrapreneurs are diverse thinkers; agile, intelligent and energised.  The key is to know how to attract, select, develop and retain these people.  Clear and strategic programmes to recognise existing intrapreneurs within the business are also vital – to attract and keep out of the box thinkers you need an out of the box programme!

Thank you for reading my initial thoughts on Intraprenuerialism.  Please do like, share and let me know your thoughts. Best Wishes Natalie

 

 

Being entirely self-taught…

Recently I have been very aware of my love of learning, I say recently as I have always taken it for granted until now.  I love to learn a new skill and feel even better when I get the opportunity to share my new knowledge with someone.  This, I believe stems from my deep rooted fear of the unknown, I like to know why, how, where and when to feel safe in my position.  This fear made me insecure in my youth, but now that I’m a grown up and getting longer in the tooth the joy of teaching myself something new really excites me.

A few clicks through Wikipedia and Google, and I discovered that there are many, many famous and incredibly talented people that are/were entirely self taught. There is…..

Kurt Cobain (taught himself to play the guitar), Edward Elgar (composer), David Bowie (taught himself to play many musical instruments and was a self taught artist), Benjamin Kidd (socialist and author with no formal education at all), Thomas Edison, James Watt, Einstein, Karl Marx.  Heston Blumnethal (UK celebrity chef and avant garde restranteur) lasted less than a week as an apprentice to Raymond Blanc so taught himself haute cuisine.

We are telling our children that they need to be resilient learners and all the information they need is at their fingertips.  We should embrace the flexibility that such autodidactism offers for our own self development.  Taking charge of your own learning and growth should be an inbuilt part of our journey.  I will continue on my autodidactic path, teaching myself to blog and write and I hope that you will bear with me while I polish my MVP and continue on my way.  So get out there, ask questions, read, listen, talk and see how far you can get!  Thank you for reading. Best Wishes Natalie.

I’m no Santa Claus…

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I have watched with anticipation, slight dismay and disbelief  how Sports Direct got away with paying less than minimum wage.  As it transpires the non payment of employees and temporary staff during the time it took them to clock in and be searched; coupled with the non-payment for their queuing time at the end of their shift to get through security again meant that their actual hours in the building divided by their actual payment for this time resulted in an hourly rate less than that of national minimum wage.  The hearing also brought about the publication (on twitter thanks to @itvjoel https://t.co/OrbcIpjlC4 ) of the ‘6 strikes and you’re out’ policy which uncovered that employees could find themselves receiving a strike for long toilet breaks, wearing branded clothes and being off sick!  

You would be forgiven for throwing the book at the occasionally hapless, confused, deluded and sporadically self-depricating Mike Ashley were it not for the cluelessness of his demeanor – the tycoon offered the investigating panel his helicopter for the day!  In my opinion they were questioning the wrong person if they wished to uncover the extent of cost cutting, labour saving and profit maximising activities at Sports Direct.  To me Mike Ashley came across as the figurehead who had lost all sense of how his business runs.  By no means is this an excuse, he just didn’t grow at the same rate as his creation.  

Mike, in essence appears greedy and he has instilled this in those leaders he surrounds himself with.  I have no doubt that he didn’t ask about HR practices, he doesn’t even mention HR once during his questioning.  He went with a cheap but powerful couple of employment agencies with cost saving implications and without thinking it through and nurtured the Sports Direct culture accordingly.  I read of tannoy announcements made at the warehouse humiliating those workers who appeared not to be pulling their weight, a culture of bullying, and fear that working patterns would be reduced for those who were off sick.  Unite compiled a most damming report with close to the line working practices.

So here begs the question…. Where was HR?  Where were those professionals who were looking to build the company on the strength of its human capital?  Were they asleep?  The most frightening question that I asked myself was…. Were they in on this?  Outsourcing responsibility as well as duty of care.  Outsourcing blame also?   Yet capitalising on the success of the company’s growth.

I am well aware that HR in a retail environment is different.  Staff turnover in all retail is higher than in my industry, the pay is lower and so approaches need to be dissimilar.  That said, the employment of temporary staff on 366 day a year contracts so that they just miss the threshold for cover under the Employment Rights Act does seem a step too far!  I will be watching this story as more unfolds.  My fear is that these types of practice are uncovered as industry norms (as alluded to by Unite in their report) and that this is just a taster of the revelations to come.

Please do let me know your thoughts on this. Thank you as ever for taking the time to read this and please feel free to share!  Best Wishes Natalie.

Lean Down the Mountain… Grow your own Grit!

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Les Arcs, 2016 – I fall down but I get up again!

 

It has been a long time since I tried something new.  I’m not just talking about the new deli filling at the sandwich shop but really trying a completely new activity, with no experience at all, going in totally blind.  Last month I took the plunge and after a long time procrastinating, and a long drive through France to get there I went skiing.  Now for many of you this is no big deal but I am an adult who had never even seen a ski in the flesh or put my foot anywhere near a ski boot, but I really wanted to learn how to ski, I have done since I was a child.

As I strapped my feet into the unforgiving boots and manoeuvred myself over to the nursery slope my heart was in my mouth, my breathing quickened and my ears rang, the adrenaline was pumping hard.  I was certain that I was going to misjudge a curve and shoot off the side of the mountain breaking my legs and ruining the experience for everyone.  I know that I am not good when I feel that I’m not in control of myself!  Lean down the mountain?  I thought they were mad, every bone in my body was telling me not to.

My ski instructor was a burly French lady with a quick wit who saw through my smiling, singing façade.  She took control and through her strength I developed my own.  I fell a lot, and each evening I counted new bruises.  With each passing day I became braver and on the last day I joined my friends (all avid and utterly brilliant skiers) and skied down the mountain without the support of the instructor.

I know that I am still no Chemmy Alcott but I have overcome the barriers that I erected for myself.  I truly believe that this would not have been possible if I had not trusted my instructor when she told me “you will ski!”.  I trusted my guide, believed in myself and stepped out of my comfort zone. 

I am fascinated by how we resist change, we’re mostly afraid and rarely push our boundaries.  Adam Phillips a British Psychoanalyst and Philosopher noted that ,“we think we know more about the experiences that we don’t have, than the experiences we do.  The unlived life becomes more significant and what’s not possible becomes the story of our lives”.  Its true, isn’t it?  We know all about the consequences, the possible pitfalls, and the reasons why we shouldn’t try something; why we shouldn’t make that jump; shouldn’t lean down the mountain.  It goes against all we ‘know’ to be true. 

That’s great, we’re all nervous of change but to grow and develop as people we have to make changes, take the next step.  How do we go from knowing ‘what’s not possible ‘to ‘having a go’?  What does it take?

Grit!  It’s all about having determination and pushing yourself to grow.  Writers on the subject suggest that some people naturally have more grit than others and while that is undoubtedly true, grit is also something that you can learn, cultivate and grow, by changing your mindset, trying new things, being determined and not being afraid to fail and to try again.  Some of the most successful people, such as Richard Branson, Albert Einstein and Marc Zuckerberg all failed.  The failing wasn’t their undoing, it spurred them on to try again and ultimately guaranteed their eventual success.  If you’ve got some time on your hands a worthwhile read on the success of failing comes from Jia Jiang in his book “Rejection Proof”.  Jia, upon quitting his job to become an entrepreneur and failing, set about to devote 6 months to getting rejected every single day.  He made unreasonable requests from everyone, even asking to see the CEO of a company in order to have a staring competition with her, amazingly she agreed to see him!  Jiang noticed that the more he asked for things the better he became at communicating and negotiating.  Needless to say he know commands large audiences as a TED talks speaker and has realised his dream of being a successful entrepreneur.

So, come on, let’s go, let’s lean down the mountain, take the chance, make that step outside our comfort zone, and ask the question.  We may fail, we may be rejected but we will always learn, as Jiang did, and will improve and before we know it we’ll get there!

I’m off now, once more to push my boundaries.  So, I invite you all to share, comment and send this to all of your connections to help me on my grit growing journey – Hey, if you don’t ask…

Good luck, be brave, show grit and determination, and please do post a comment and keep me posted of your progress too!  Thank you for reading.  Natalie

 

 

 

Fluffy Bunnies and Cocktails…

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If you could make one change……

It was with a large smile on my face that I read the recent article in People Management magazine ‘Fantasy Workplaces – Free cocktails every Friday’ ( People Management – Feb 2016) Among some of the suggestions for how to improve employee experience were;

  1. A cocktail trolley every Friday.
  2. A large bunny rabbit to cuddle.
  3. Nap rooms.
  4. A boxing ring to solve disputes.

Also within the madness and excitement I saw a variety of actually quite sensible suggestions;

  1. Holding meetings outside to stimulate creativity and fresh ideas.
  2. Limiting meetings to 30 minutes in length
  3. Creating a learning environment for all with art tuition, guitar lessons and a large library and exercise space.

With this in mind I thought I’d reach out to my network of PAYE friends and see what their reactions to this question would be and to be brutally honest I was expecting limited sensible suggestions with an onus on a pay rise and greater flexible working patterns, even with a ‘sack the boss’ thrown in for good measure!

My first friend to reply told me of a company she worked for who provided 10 minute chair massages, once a month for all employees and all expenses paid trips to Barbados for all those who exceeded their targets. Now, we all know that the pre-credit crunch days of hedonism in business are long gone for the majority of us mere mortals. However, I was pleasantly surprised that many more employees buy in to the improvement of their company on a much deeper level – even those who aren’t in HR! We had suggestions of wellbeing options for compulsory training hours (I’ve trialled this and we had great uptake). A meditation and calming room, with pets to cuddle was a fab suggestion beating the problem of leaving your fluffy ones at home all day alone.

This article is a bit of fun but highlights 2 very important things to me:

  1. The carrot approach to increasing productivity really gets people excited.
  2. Employees when aroused by an idea are really creative, forward thinking people who do want to improve not only their work lives but the business that they work in also.

Although we won’t be seeing widespread petting zoos in corporate offices maybe we will see an increase in how leaders see the importance of improving employee experience especially as the spread of technology makes us all contactable 24-7-365.

Please do let me know how your organisation improves employee experience. Are there wellbeing zones and quiet rooms out there? I look forward to hearing some fun suggestions also. Namaste!

Thank you for reading – Natalie

 

Be the genius that you were born to be: 10 secrets that will transform you into a superhuman!

Albert-Einstein

I have a problem, I’m intrinsically drawn to certain posts on LinkedIn.  You all know the ones…. “6 things every Entrepreneur should do”; “5 Habits of great leaders”: “20 things you should never do or say” so when I came across this book I was hooked instantly. Harshajyoti Das advocates that ‘everyone is born to be a genius’ and this resonates with me greatly.  In know that I am surrounded by untapped genius in some of my closest friends and family, I believe this so fervently that I even I have this famous Einstein quote on my office wall.

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will go through it life believing that it is stupid”.

The fact that the author is self-published and that he is living and breathing this intrigued me even more.  This is the aspect that I feel articles like this always miss – who is actually doing this?  Does it really work?

The Rules

  1. You can’t make everyone happy

The author suggests that as a social animal we spend too much of our time here on earth trying to fit in and conform to social norms.  He says that we should stop living our lives to try to please others.  A good example he gives is that of a young person whose parents so desperately want him to be a doctor that he goes to medical school and tries to live out his parents’ plan for him.  The outcome is that as he doesn’t really want to be a doctor he doesn’t put 100% into his career and ends up trying to find a compromise later down the line.  So after all this energy and effort neither he nor his parents are happy.  Harshajjyoti suggests that the son should have chosen and followed his own career path from day 1, then he would have been happier and more successful.  This is something that we all know deep down that if we are focused on our own goals and not merely following someone else’s path we do better.  I concur Mr Das!

  1. Most people will hate you and that’s OK

Here the author examines how most people’s rise to success is usually dogged by the jealousy of others and he states that the most successful people have a limited social circle of trusted friends for this very reason.  There are of course many who will admire and wish to emulate your success but the loudest voices will come from the haters.  Das says, live with it, this is a fact of life and “don’t let the b*** get you down!”

  1. Don’t be selfish in front of God

At first glance this title appeared a little out of context from reading Das’ book so far.  He means that successful people didn’t ask God, beg from the universe or get to where they are by just demanding what they wanted from a higher power.  He suggests that such power, if you believe it exists, should be used to ask for help for others.  Pray to God or ask the universe for world peace, to help your elderly neighbour to stay healthy this winter, where we are powerless to help.  Das states that we as masters of our own destiny must generate achievement ourselves, our faith may support us, give us emotional strength in tough times but the responsibility lies with us and conversely failure also cannot be laid at the door of a higher power.

 

  1. Silence is your most powerful weapon

Conflict is a tough one isn’t it?  We all know we should remain calm and emotionally detach ourselves during a difficult conversation, but in reality this is hard.  Das suggests that remaining silent when someone is angry and speaking to you in an aggressive manner is the only way to diffuse the situation.  He understands that it is human nature to try to defend ourselves and this in turn prolongs the pain for all parties.  Das says that silence is very powerful, it can help us to make a point.  When surrounded by gossiping (a real gripe for Das) he says silence is vital.  He also reports that silence is key when working to generate your greatest ideas and also when meditating (Das also suggests that we should all meditate daily).

  1. Tell people what they want to hear. Do what you want to do.

Now if I’m honest I wish this chapter had been omitted from the book.  Here Das falls flat on his face and appears to me as the self-centred fool I was hoping that he wouldn’t turn out to be.  In this rule he gives an example to illustrate this idea.  He was invited to his friend’s wedding, on the same day he had the opportunity to go to a meeting for his IT business that could net him a large deal.  Instead of telling his friend the truth about the deal, or trying to compromise by attending the wedding in the evening to support his friend he said he would try to attend (tell people what they want to hear) but all the time he knew that he would not (do what you want to do).  Where is the compromise, where is the building of trust, where is the honesty?  Poor show Das!

  1. Lie, only if it helps someone else

This is a great one!  Das examines how, and we all know this, that lies compound and snowball until a really large lie catches us out and we are not even sure what the truth is anymore.  Das says that successful people should only ever lie to save someone else and he really means save!  Lying is just fear if telling the truth after all and to become your inner genius you should not be afraid.

  1. Have a cup of green tea with Richard Branson

This resonates with many of you I imagine.  Can we catch the entrepreneurial spirit form reading Richard Branson’s autobiography?  Will watching the apprentice make us more likely to build a successful Alan Sugar-esque empire?  We would be fools if we thought that this would happen however Das recommends reading successful business people’s autobiographies as we can collect ideas, patterns of working. In my opinion reading books like this inspires us to take the step, these books often show the rags to riches aspect of these people’s lives which we can relate to and fuels our desire to make our own mark.

  1. Make new plans everyday

Let’s make goals, plans, come up with ideas.  I believe that Das really does this.  He writes a list of things he would like o make and achieve.  Some of them can be ridiculous; a toaster that toasts your initials into the bread, making a perfumes room spray.  The idea is that you come up with 10 new ideas every day and keep your mind active.  Das admits that neither you nor he will accomplish all of these goals however your brain will be kept active and you will be looking around you for how to improve your world, which will grow your creative mind.  I for one love a goal, some I set are short-term wins and some require a longer journey but goals are important in life.

  1. You are the chosen one

Yes, you are!  So am I! None of the genius steps will work if you don’t believe in yourself in the first instance.  Das tells his own story of rags to riches and how anything is possible if you have the drive and determination to succeed.

  1. Let people underestimate you

Every bone in my body shudders at this statement.  Das says that the more you show your abilities, the more that people will expect from you and the more you will be troubled by them.  He gives examples of football fans expecting their team to win all home games and readers who expect their favourite authors to write books that always outsell their previous titles.  The major hole here for me is that this is not sustainable, how can we be expected to remove other’s perceptions of our successes and failures.  The true message here I believe should be to judge yourself by your own criteria and, to borrow a previous train of thought (numbers 1 and 4) ‘you can’t make everyone happy’ and ‘silence is a powerful weapon’.

In conclusion, this is a great read.  The author is flawed, human and not a management consultant trotting out the exact same ideas that he peddles on his ‘success roadshow’.  His writing style is easy to read and his story is great.  This is his personal journey and it works for him.  I would be really interested to read the other titles he has published and look forward to implementing some of these ideas into my life.

Das’ book can be purchased here: Be the genius you were born to be – 10 secrets that will transform you into a superhuman

All published articles are my own personal thoughts and I welcome any comments, suggestions and your opinions.  Thank you for reading. Natalie

Is there an ‘i’ in Team?

 

I in team pic

There are many successful teams that we can recall at an instant.  The A Team, Chelsea FC last season, the Leadership team at Apple, the well documented Google teams and their Google culture… the list goes on.  It is also without exerting too much energy that I can recall a less successful team which led me to thinking about team dynamics and impetus.

The ‘Connexus’ team from BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’ this year lost the first 5 out of 6 tasks set by Lord Sugar.  Why does a team with a varied skill base and loads of energy go on to fail so miserably time after time?

The Apprentice candidates are striving for a short term win for each task and compete as a team, however the longer term goal for each of them is to become Lord Sugar’s business partner and so in the fight to come out on top overall the cohesion of the team suffers.  They are working towards a common short term goal but have opposing long term goals, so in essence what remains is many lone operators fighting for the ‘i’ in their team.

Team dynamics and success is widely discussed and personality and ‘role’ theories are often used to ensure that balanced teams are created.  Belbin believes a successful team should incorporate 9 ‘roles’.  These are:

  • Resource Investigator
  • Team worker
  • Co-ordinator
  • Plant
  • Monitor/Evaluator
  • Specialist
  • Shaper
  • Implementer
  • Completer/Finisher

Each team member is motivated to ensure that the team is effective and goal driven and having these personality types ensures that all stages of a project have an oriented person to guide the other team members.  However with so many varying personality types surely conflict is never far away and trust must be hard to build.  We should be mindful that the ‘i’ may be easily lost as the group works towards their common goal, or that the long term motivations of the individual team members may overshadow the team goal.  Engagement theory highlights to us that we are more comfortable working with like-minded people, yet we produce better results in diverse groups, we develop our skills more and develop our EQ.  How can we address this and remain balanced as individuals and as a group?  A challenge that I’m sure Lord Sugar himself would not relish.

Is there an ‘i’ in TEAM?  Yes there is, without the ‘i’s there would be no team.   The challenge is not to forget the individuals in striving for the end goal.  The individuals make up the whole, which if built and managed well can be greater than the sum of its parts.

These are merely my musings and thoughts on people.  Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment. Merry Christmas!  Natalie