Anybody Can Create an Entrepreneurial Mindset

by Janice Giannini

With a deep mastering at the intersection of IT and business strategy, consultant, board adviser and former C-suite executive, Janice has been harnessing the true power of IT for more than 30 years. An Executive and Board-level digital strategist at the intersection of risk and IT, she enhances competitive position through vision and equity with large-scale risk identification, quantification and mitigation in an ever-changing marketplace, generating long-term value for clients. She engages with senior executives and teams, particularly in complex businesses where misalignment is blocking their desired success, to develop and execute practical business strategies and plans. Clients have found her especially helpful when they recognize they must integrate an eagle's eye and worm's eye view in order to identify and remove obstacles. Janice has consistently taken on those challenges that others chose to run from. This typically involves those challenging times when failure is not an option and integrating business, technology and people changes must be accomplished simultaneously. As a result, many of her clients are complex organizations who won't settle for anything less than developing widespread professional competence.

I recently had the opportunity to read an article presented on Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge website, addressing Professor Mukti Khaire's challenge to business school management students.

As I was reading the thesis Professor Khaire was sharing, I starting seeing the parallel for all businesses today. I believe that strategic leadership in the dynamic global market we face, across all sectors, needs to address this very same reality.

Professor Khaire's premise is that management is very different in creative industries (e.g. fashion, film, food, etc.) versus traditional industries. Her charge to her students is not to be satisfied with just changing the way people live. Rather, to be bold and change the way they think; and in that way change the culture. Changing culture is about creating game changing ideas that at first challenge and then change the way we think.

A few examples she shares to illustrate her point are: (1) Chef James Beard recasting American cuisine as having gastronomic value in the 1950's; (2) Penguin Books making authors available to a wider audience via respectable paperbacks; and (3) Sundance Film festival for Indie films. It is thought provoking to note that based on her point of view, the automobile was not a game changer. Neither was the advent of women driving a game changer. However, when women started driving to work, the confluence became a game changer.

Professor Khaire's thesis is that creators simply create something, and it is up to others to recognize, share and move it to the marketplace. The intersection of commerce, culture, consumption and commentary is where shift happens and markets can be created. Change one of these and you have changed the culture.

While she started the discussion to help prepare the business school graduates who choose to work in creative businesses; I immediately saw the parallel for traditional businesses.

Traditional businesses, in order to grow, also need to change the culture. While the easiest way to go is to sell products and services that are consistent with the current cultural conventions; you can easily become commoditized and financial results suffer.

The consequence of not creating culture changing products and services, might be steady decline and sinking from a position of preeminence, to that of an also ran.

Admittedly, creating culture changing products and services is difficult, because at the outset, you are creating discomfort by challenging current conventions of acceptability.

This begs the question when creating new cultural norms: how do you create and sustain the environment to even make game changing ideas a possibility?

If I go back to traditional company management thought processes for a moment, traditional companies focus on efficiently creating, producing, and selling products and services at a competitive market price. As such, the focus is on "you get what you measure." Therefore, there are detailed metrics for process, financials, quality, sales, etc. No problem, you say, let's develop and implement a "creative index measure" that is meaningful. Really!

This culture may not be conducive to creating an environment where creativity and game changing idea generation flourishes.

If Professor Khaire's thesis is on target, that creators create and others move it to the marketplace, then how do you combine the creative index concept (with or without the index) with traditional management practices, to create new markets?

At this juncture, I will take a moment to seriously suggest, that thinking in traditional terms will most likely not get you to the outcome you desired. I started here to build a bridge to the future, to help with the leap of faith. The leap of faith that, in order to create an environment where creativity and game changing idea generation flourishes, first requires you to change your own culture inside.

The how question is ever present. The strategic leader will recognize and create an environment, that fosters this type of creativity, regardless of the industry. They will recognize the healthy balance between effectively measuring appropriate business results and having the freedom to innovate and create. They will enable both to co-exist in the same space. It may not be without its challenges. It is typically worth it in the end.

As an example, many businesses and brands today are looking to crowd sourcing of ideas, to infuse this type of creativity to expand their revenues. This is a good step in the creativity direction. However, to depend only on external creativity, leaves much on the table and potentially compromises a company or brand's competitive position long term.

Strategic questions for leaders to get their minds around:

  • What do you need to think and do, to have a creative environment with both internal and external creative ideas?
  • What are the top 3 characteristics of your current culture that are getting in the way of you having high creativity in your business?
  • What can you learn, by analyzing your business to determine how, to create a creativity index? Not that you would do it literally. As with most insights, it's not the final report, it's the thought process the team goes through, that enlightens the future.
  • What do you need to let go of, in order to enable this creativity to occur? How can you allow yourself to let go?
  • What are the long term consequences of implementing this concept of creating an environment that fosters high impact entrepreneurial thinking?
  • What are the long term consequences of not implementing this concept?
  • Can you afford to ignore this much longer? Particularly if your competitors are doing this. And they are!