The Change-Mak­ers Among Us

Who are the en­trepreneurs in your busi­ness?

Indwe - - Contents - Text: Amanda Visser / fin­week Images © iStockphoto.com

Peo­ple tend to have a rather ro­man­ti­cised view of en­trepreneurs. They imag­ine them to be dar­ing, brave, fearless, and that they make stacks of money. In­di­vid­u­als who start their own busi­nesses are called “en­trepreneurs”. How­ever, this is not en­tirely true. Many be­come self­em­ployed out of ne­ces­sity rather than be­cause they are fol­low­ing a dream.

Many com­pa­nies around the world will also have to be­come more “en­tre­pre­neur­ial” for the same rea­son. The Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion has brought a wave of dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies that are chang­ing busi­ness mod­els and forc­ing com­pa­nies to be­come en­tre­pre­neur­ial to weather the lat­est storm.

Gorkan Ah­me­toglu, co-founder of Meta Profiling and lec­turer in busi­ness psy­chol­ogy at Univer­sity Col­lege London, says in­no­va­tion and cre­at­ing “en­tre­pre­neur­ial ecosys­tems” within com­pa­nies is no longer the carrot, but has be­come the stick. Many com­pa­nies are “al­most pan­ick­ing” about the level of in­no­va­tion needed to re­main rel­e­vant and com­pet­i­tive. They imag­ine hav­ing to live up to the en­tre­pre­neur­ial im­age of com­pa­nies like Face­book, Twit­ter, What­sApp and Ap­ple, he said dur­ing a re­cent visit to South Africa.

How­ever, the best place to start is to iden­tify those with en­tre­pre­neur­ial tal­ent within the or­gan­i­sa­tion. They are there – not ev­ery­one who is en­tre­pre­neur­ial is out conquering the world.

Jopie de Beer, manag­ing direc­tor at JvR Psy­cho­met­rics, says be­sides over-ro­man­ti­cis­ing en­trepreneur­ship, stereo­typ­ing is also a prob­lem. “Stereo­typ­ing is ac­tu­ally a nasty thing. Lit­er­a­ture char­ac­terises in­no­va­tors as mav­er­icks who are im­pos­si­ble to man­age. They do not com­ply with any rules and they just fol­low their own – some­times crazy – ideas,” she ex­plains.

En­trepreneurs are in­no­va­tors who can as­sist com­pa­nies in keep­ing up with – and even sur­pass­ing – com­peti­tors. Ex­perts ex­plain how com­pa­nies can spot such in­di­vid­u­als among their staff mem­bers.

De Beer says there is no doubt that some in­no­va­tors do fit this stereo­type, but it is not one that has done them – or so­ci­ety – any favours. She ex­plains that in­no­va­tors are peo­ple with a vast knowl­edge about their fields. They are able to con­nect the dots and have a vi­sion of how their ideas will change the in­dus­try.

There is also a plethora of rather gen­eral as­sump­tions of what con­sti­tutes en­tre­pre­neur­ial tal­ent. Many as­sume it is quite easy to iden­tify an in­no­va­tor be­cause they are gen­er­ally im­pul­sive, are able to in­ter­pret tra­di­tional think­ing in new ways, and are will­ing to im­ple­ment these new ideas.

“There is an el­e­ment of truth that a man­ager or leader is able to spot en­tre­pre­neur­ial tal­ent, but it is not al­ways a guar­an­tee.” De Beer says that an ex­tro­vert with en­tre­pre­neur­ial ten­den­cies may well be easy to spot, but a shyer en­tre­pre­neur may as eas­ily be over­looked. There is value in us­ing a tested mea­sur­ing in­stru­ment. “A com­pany risks miss­ing huge po­ten­tial if it is not more sys­tem­atic in its search for true tal­ent,” she adds.

Ah­me­toglu is one of the de­sign­ers of the Mea­sures of En­tre­pre­neur­ial Ten­den­cies and Abil­i­ties (META) psy­cho­me­t­ric test. It is the re­sult of a four-year re­search pro­gramme and has been com­pleted by over 100,000 peo­ple, in 10 lan­guages, and in 25 coun­tries.

The META re­search and stud­ies re­vealed four key com­po­nents of en­tre­pre­neur­ial ten­den­cies:

• Cre­ativ­ity (in­no­va­tion): Di­ver­gent think­ing, go­ing against the sta­tus quo, think­ing in new ways about old ideas and mak­ing orig­i­nal con­nec­tions. • Op­por­tunism: The abil­ity to con­nect

the dots.

• Pro-ac­tiv­ity: To take ac­tion – to “go

for it”.

• Vi­sion: The abil­ity to “see” the dif­fer­ence the new idea will make in the busi­ness.

If a per­son is iden­ti­fied as pos­sess­ing all four of these key com­po­nents, there is an 85 % chance that they have en­tre­pre­neur­ial abil­i­ties.

De Beer says it is quite nor­mal for one in­di­vid­ual to test high on pro-ac­tiv­ity, for in­stance, but av­er­age on vi­sion. If the man­ager is aware of what each staff mem­ber’s ap­ti­tude is for these com­po­nents, they will be able to com­bine teams in a way that will de­liver the best re­sults. “En­tre­pre­neur­ial tal­ent needs free­dom to ad­vise the com­pany on how to do things dif­fer­ently. Se­nior man­age­ment needs to buy into good ideas and even not-so-good ideas,” she ex­plains. En­trepreneurs need tools and en­cour­age­ment to im­ple­ment their new think­ing.

Com­pa­nies with “en­tre­pre­neur­ial ten­den­cies” gen­er­ally have a bold leader with a strong vi­sion. These lead­ers con­sider new ideas and are will­ing to test them – more so than their com­peti­tors. De Beer says com­pa­nies with these bold lead­ers also tend to re­act quicker to mar­ket changes. They re­ward peo­ple and teams for com­ing up with new ideas and they are not afraid of be­ing seen as “the com­pany that does things dif­fer­ently”.

An­other stereo­type is that com­pa­nies imag­ine they have to “look” like Google or Ap­ple. Ah­me­toglu says com­pa­nies do not have to im­i­tate ex­treme in­no­va­tors. All they have to do is to ob­serve the com­pe­ti­tion and to do more of what they are do­ing – and do it bet­ter. He re­ferred to data which in­di­cates that 50 years ago the av­er­age life­span of a com­pany in the S&P 500 In­dex was 60 years. Nowa­days it is less than 20, and by 2035 it will be around 12 years.

Data also shows that 52 % of the com­pa­nies on the For­tune 500 list have gone bankrupt, were ac­quired or sim­ply ceased to ex­ist from 2000 to 2015. De Beer says the type of skills the com­pany iden­ti­fies and nur­tures, the way it or­gan­ises it­self, the way it de­ter­mines cost and the way it po­si­tions it­self are al­ready af­fected by the Fourth Rev­o­lu­tion. It took the tele­phone 70 years to achieve a 50 % house­hold pen­e­tra­tion. It took a com­pany like Face­book a mere 852 days to reach 10 mil­lion users. Google took 16 days to achieve the same. Things are mov­ing fast. Large com­pa­nies that are not re­spond­ing to the call for in­no­va­tion should not feel com­fort­able, De Beer con­cludes.

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