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Questions for Executive Teams
     If you and your company leaders are not thinking creatively, following the trends and seeing new options for products and services, your organization can easily be fighting for it’s life.

“Rising instability is good news for the little guy and sometimes bad news for the big players. Wikipedia though only five years old, is already twelve times larger than the Britanica. Wikipedia is free, exists only on the web, and can be read in 229 languages. That’s pretty impressive for eight years. The New York Times, founded in 1851, now thinks of the young up-start Google as a serious competitor.” [1]

Here are some questions to start a dialogue with leaders that could place your people on a more entrepreneurial track and leverage change quickly and powerfully:

1. How do we foster entrepreneurship?
  • Programs
  • Company Incubators
  • Alliances with Universities
  • Alliances with Community
  • Summits to explore major problems/

2. How do we recognize innovative and entrepreneurial thinking?
  • Presentation Summits
  • Open space brainstorming sessions
  • Inclusion in strategic planning
  • Leadership programs with breakthrough projects
  • Spotlight successes monthly on the Web

3. How are managers rewarded for innovation and new business ideas?
  • Compensation and bonuses based on innovation
  • White papers at conferences
  • Presentations to Executive Teams
  • R&D Project Funds

4. What are our organizational barriers to entrepreneurial thinking?
  • Understaffed
  • Limited R&D
  • Lack of experience and mastery in core competencies
  • New, inexperienced leadership
  • No common forum or showcase

5. What are some pressing organization needs or problems whose breakthroughs in products, services, and processes are needed?

6. What changes/trends are hitting our industry that will require breakthroughs?

Let change be the driver for entrepreneurial thinking in your organization. Attract the best in your core competency areas. Make that one of your Talent Management strategies. Creative people want to be with creative people!

1. “Wikis at Work”, Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2007.

2. “10 cool colleges for entrepreneurs,”, 03/0, 2006.

3. “Start-up advice from entrepreneurs, from Y Combinator Startup School, Mark Coker, 03,26,2007.

4. “America’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” Asio, January 2001.

5. Fortune Small Business, Feb. 2007, p. 33-34.

6. Fast Company, November, 2006.

7. The Top 5 Reasons People Start New Businesses by Ben Yaskovitz, November 14, 2006.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph.D., is President of MasteryWorks, Inc. in McLean, VA. She has been a consultant, entrepreneur, and educator for over 30 years, Caela has worked with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to get them on their mastery path. Caela’s practice and company builds strong links between changing trends in industries, changing strategies of organizations and the talents and aspirations of individuals. People who work with her company discover their passion, their mastery path, and bring renewed contribution and high performance to their organizations.

Caela is known internationally for her expertise in developing talent management products and services. Her solutions are user-friendly systems that serve the needs of both organizations and individuals. She is frequently quoted in the media regarding her thoughts and advice on changing careers and work patterns in the nation. Hundreds of organizations have implemented talent management solutions from MasteryWorks, Inc. — consulting, workshops, assessment instruments and web-based talent management portals.
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Leverage Change - Develop Entrepreneurs
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.
     Change can be opportunistic or chaotic: it depends on your perspective. Do the trends and changes swirling around your organization spur entrepreneurial thinking or defensive action? Do you foster an entrepreneurial environment? Are there barriers in your organization preventing you from being entrepreneurial? What drives people to become entrepreneurs? How can Human Resources foster an entrepreneurial culture? What are you doing to support entrepreneurship in your organization?

     The world is a system – more interrelated than we often think. Seeing this interrelationship, working across boundaries, and daring to have new ideas characterizes entrepreneurs.

Test your own entrepreneurial thinking-
Below are headlines from various Wall Street Journal articles in June of 2007. What would happen if each of our managers and individual contributors read these headlines to gain insights into new products and/or new services to be designed?

  • “Toyota may pull back on U.S. manufacturing plants”
  • “A Job Interview You Don’t have to Show Up For”
  • “Start-Ups Make Inroads with Google’s Work Force”
  • “Real Estate Investors Head Overseas”
  • “ Takes Lead in Designing Display of Search Results”
  • “Apple’s iPhone Introduced June 29th”
  • “Hospitals Crack Down on Deadly Infections”

Take a few minutes. Think backwards for a minute. What were the changes and trends that might have precipitated these headlines? What industries are most likely impacted? What organizations could be involved? What professions/trades could be impacted? What jobs or services might be created or dismantled? Write down a list of the jobs, professions, organizations, government agencies and industries that each of these headlines could impact. What new businesses and jobs could be created? What jobs, companies and/or products will be negatively impacted? How might any of these headlines alter your career?

     Do your employees think ahead and anticipate changes, seeing new business opportunities? (and we don’t mean just marketing people). Headlines like the above are the precursors of change. Are you helping individual contributors and managers see new possibilities and propose new alternatives? Or do you lose your best and brightest because HR or management are not open to changes, new ideas and perspectives?

Use Change as a Platform for Entrepreneurial Thinking

Our company, MasteryWorks, has partnered with corporations for over three decades to turn organizational breakdowns (downsizing, redeployment, outsourcing, changes in technology, plant closings, new leaders, new competitors, corporate headquarter moves, leadership vacuums, etc.) into opportunities. Change may create problems but also creates business opportunities. We help managers and individual contributors see the positive dynamism of change. They begin to see that strong trends provide the clues for new jobs, products, services and even companies. We help employees develop entrepreneurial mindsets to take charge of their own careers and create new organizations, jobs, services, and products.

     We show people systems in our consulting and workshops. Our Web of Work model (shown below) demonstrates that all human systems evolve to take care of twelve basic needs. Professions/trades, industries, organizations and jobs derive from our efforts to take care of those needs in old or new ways. People start to think from a service viewpoint rather than a job perspective. This may sound overly simplistic, but we’ve had executives change the mission of their companies, rewrite strategic plans, give a second ear to new products or services and champion funding for creating new organizations. Why? Because people saw opportunities they never saw before. Redeployment efforts in financial institutions, consumer product organizations, government agencies and health care organizations have been frequent beneficiaries of our entrepreneurial thinking process.

The Web of Work Model
© 2007 MasteryWorks, Inc

Cost of Change
     Reactive organization change has a high price tag. Unfortunately the automotive industry is a good example of not investing in the kind of R&D required to stay competitive. Reducing staff or increasing the effectiveness of manufacturing has not maintained our industry leadership. Being profitable and reducing costs cannot substitute for innovation. Thousands of people are being laid off or given early retirement as a way to stay the course until new technology and product designs are ready for the market. Why is it that Korea and Japan could see the needs of customers before U.S. automakers? And why were the great engineers who foresaw the need for fuel efficient and hybrid cars not listened to until we lost our leadership position in the industry?

     While the U.S. automotive industry sorts itself out again and concentrates on taking care of the needs/trends of consumers – fuel efficiency, global emissions, cost of gas, size of families, cost of manufacturing – we’re paying a dear price:

  • Loss of automotive sales
  • Reputation in the global community
  • Loss of U.S. jobs and companies in related channels (auto parts, tires, plastics, computers, etc.)
  • Demise of company towns
  • Passion and energy of leading engineers and designers
  • Inability to attract talent
  • Loss of competitive strategies

     It might take a decade or more to regain the leadership in the automotive and automotive parts industry pioneered by the U.S. Why? - Because automotive management did not respond to the many trends and changes surrounding the industry. Each year’s earnings became more important than future earnings, sacrificing the future for present profit.

Our Method for Building Entrepreneurial Thinking
      Working with hundreds of thousands of managers and employees facing a massive organization change, MasteryWorks has included the following exercise in our coaching and consulting. Many people claim this was the most helpful part of our work with them. The method is developed in great detail in my book, Who’s Running Your Career? Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times, Bard Press, 1997. I describe the thinking required to become a CAPABLE Entrepreneur. This is intuitively the process used by entrepreneurs. It’s not’ totally linear but rather, an organic and creative process.

Catch the trends
Anticipate new niches
Propose realistic options
Analyze the benefits
Bolster your case
Leverage your reputation
Engage your services

Catch the Trends
     A trend is a pattern of activity in a certain direction. It produces energy, electrical waves that have power. Trends are usually coming from a variety of vectors – customers, countries, organizations, think tanks, society, technology, etc. These trends, when caught and used, open the door for new creations. If not seen as patterns and recognized as seeds of opportunity, they become disruptive and chaotic. Any trend - growing fundamentalism, open-source code, increasing medical costs, talk of global warming, growing number of refugees, low cost of digital cameras, slump in housing market, explosion of the Internet, etc. – can be the platform for a creative entrepreneur.

Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia that anyone can edit, has become one of the most visited websites in the world. Jimmy Wales saw the possibility of open-source editing using wikipedia open-source software.
     Seeing wikis as a trend for corporations, two entrepreneurs invented new information sharing opportunities for their employees:

“Aaron Hathaway, IT Director at Prager, Sealy & Co., an investment firm in San Francisoco, turned to software from San Diego-based MindTouch Inc. for making company wikis…to create technical information that anyone in the company can access and edit.”[1]

“Software maker SAP has a wiki that acts as a base of information for people outside the company, such as customers and software developers who build programs that interact with SAP software.”[1]

ACTION: List three trends that you believe will cause important changes in your profession, organization or industry in the next three years.


Anticipate New Niches
     Scott Jones and other widely known entrepreneurs not only recognize trends but can anticipate specific new niches they could develop. They frequently use skills from several fields to create their new product or service. For example:
  Scott Jones was steeped in the sciences of robotics, vision systems, optical storage, and parallel computing at MIT. He founded Boston Technology, Inc. in 1986, and created a voicemail system that was faster, more scalable, more reliable, more user-friendly and 20 times bigger than those of competitors such as AT&T, Siemens, Northern Telecom and others. Since that beginning in his mid-20s, Scott's resulting patented inventions have been implemented by nearly every major telephone company in the world and have enabled those companies to offer highly profitable voice-mail services to hundreds of millions of their customers.

ACTION: Think of ten ways you could address one of the trends you’ve listed above with a new or improved product or service. If you get stuck, ask some people in your network.
Propose New Options/Solutions
     Many people see opportunities but few take the time to craft a novel and creative proposal. Be specific. Make a written proposal. (Writing helps us think.) Be sure that you:
  • Clarify the need you are addressing. Focus on only one niche. Choose a product or service you’re well-positioned to offer.
  • Identify your targetmarket - Show how your offer meets specific needs.
  • Make the offer - Craft the offer in a few short sentences. Engage their passion, be credible, and demonstrate you can deliver.
ACTION: Choose one exciting option from the above ten ways and craft a specific written offer, identifying your target group.
Analyze the Benefits
     Research. Find out all you can about the company or target groups to whom you’re making the offer. Do at least a threefold analysis: 1) benefits to the company; 2) benefits to the customer; and 3) benefits to the industry.
ACTION: Write down your threefold analysis. Quantify when possible.
Bolster Your Case
     Which of your prior accomplishments and experiences make your proposal credible? Have you delivered similar products or services? What competencies do you possess that will give others assurance? Catch their interest?
ACTION: List your accomplishments, experiences and competencies and make links to the proposal you're making.
Leverage Your Reputation
     People who have already witnessed your accomplishments are your best public relations sources. Survey your network of people. Who will vouch for you – current and former colleagues? past employers? Customers? Colleagues in the industry? Who would be willing to put their name on the line for you? Who would fund you?

ACTION: List the names of people you can count on. Tell them about your idea and ask for their sponsorship or partnership."
Engage Your Services - Just Do It
     Even before your proposal is accepted, think about what you need in return. What sort of environment do you need? Colleagues? Seed money? Hours? Location? Technology? Compensation – stock, bonus, percentage of profits, patent or trademark?
ACTION: Put your proposal in writing. Be clear. Be fair. Support your recommendations and have a fallback position.

     Once the idea has proved workable, look-alikes and feel-alikes will begin to emerge. By then, the entrepreneur may be starting the next business.
Five Ways Organizations Can Spur Entrepreneurs
      Entrepreneurship is on the radar screen for many foundations, universities, and venture capitalists. The Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation has created funding for Grassroots Rural Entrepreneurships. Fortune magazine lists the 10 best universities for entrepreneurial learning.[2]

Which of the following practices does your organization use to foster entrepreneurship?

  • 1) Hire Masters in the Core Competencies – Many of the greatest entrepreneurs have years of experience and mastery in one or more fields. They have the courage of their convictions and a reputation for excellence. They have followed their interests, passions, and created new visions of what could be. People listen. How many real masters do you have in your organization?[4]

  • 2) Build critical mass in a region – Make it easier for people to collaborate, challenge and hear one another’s ideas. Create an incubator for creative people to work in areas of great passion and need. There is a hum in the air in Research Triangle Park (biotech and pharmaceuticals), Palo Alto (computer science and biotechnology), New Jersey (pharmaceutical and medical products), Boston (Learning, Science and Technology), etc. Hubs generate energy and invention.
  Economic development groups like the Research Triangle Regional Partnership and North Carolina Biotechnology Center recognize the potential of green technology. In fact, RTRP's most recent weekly radio show featured an interview with the Biotech Center on Growing Biofuels and Industrial Biotechnology Clusters.

A recent Time Inc. Study shows states and cities in the U.S. that are the most entrepreneurial. The map of their research shows the rate of entrepreneurial activity according to the number of residents out of 100,000 who have started their own businesses. South Dakota has the friendliest policy environment, Atlanta has the highest entrepreneurial activity for any major city and Vermont is the state with the highest entrepreneurial activity.[5]

  • 3) Provide Seed Capital or R&D Funds – Follow the lead of Foundations, Grants, University Research, Start-up Incubators or link your people directly to these ventures. Providing physical space where people can informally brainstorm and create fosters an entrepreneurial atmosphere, as well as positive emotional energy.
  Y Combinator, a Venture Capital organization, provides two technology summits annually for young start-up companies to showcase their wares.[3]
  • 4) Provide Recognition and Rewards – There is nothing like success to breed success. Spotlight employees with new patents, breakthroughs in systems or processes, share history of new product development, and provide team rewards.
  Shari Ballard, EVP HR and Legal, helps her company, Best Buy, stay close to employees and build an environment where their ideas count. Fast Company magazine recently featured an employee, Nate Omman, who came up with the TV Taco to lessen the damage to flat screen TVs.[6]

  • 5) Use Real Problems for Leadership Development – Our work with Verizon’s Marketing for Future Leaders was exciting because we were able to coach leaders to take on business problems and company challenges. Potential leaders had to immerse themselves in the industry, get sponsorship for their ideas, cross organizational boundaries and present their findings and recommendations to executives. They learned to see trends, make proposals, sell bottom-line benefits and make an impression on leaders of the company. Their ideas produced profits and saved money.
Why People Leave and Start their own Business
     The number of small businesses created annually is mind boggling! Unfortunately, many people leave organizations because their ideas are not accepted and they become formidable competitors. Others, just realize in their twenty-somethings that they could make more money working for themselves, setting their own schedules and hiring whomever they chose.

Frequent reasons cited by entrepreneurs for starting businesses include:

  • Passion for a cause, a new possibility, solving a problem or just testing the germ of an idea. We see this in the plethora of new businesses born every year throughout the world. Greg Mortensen’s promise to build a school for girls in Pakistan eventually birthed fifty seven schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Personal Freedom – the desire to work on one’s own schedule, be one’s own boss, and have time at home. However, most entrepreneurs admit that they work 24/7 to launch new ideas. Few claim they have work/life balance.[7]
  • Personal Development – They love learning and the possibility of bridging ideas from one field to another.
  • Ego (I can do it better) – They’re sure that an idea will work and willing to spend savings, get friends on board, or find venture capital so the idea will see the light of day
  • Money/Survival – Many start out building a business or creating a new product because of money. Others, however do it for humanitarian reasons. And some start small businesses just to pay the bills.

Anita Roddrick, founder of The Body Shop, a personal care product company, claims she founded the company because she needed to survive. Yes, it was the money. She had witnessed the cleansing rituals of women in her travels and wanted to create a product that was eco-friendly. Europe was “going green,” so her product was most timely. Because of her success in building a world-wide storefront, she has a strong voice as a human rights activist.[8]

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