Encouraging your team to think counter-conventionally will help them to find new ways to solve problems, and act faster and smarter in the face of challenges, says John Mullins, professor at London Business School, and author of Break the Rules! The Six Counter–Conventional Mindsets of Entrepreneurs That Can Help Anyone Change the World.
In recent years, the opportunity to earn extra money and take control of their career paths amidst economic uncertainties has driven a growing number of employees towards a secondary work stream – a “side-hustle”. But, as leaders and employers, it can be difficult to know where to stand on these side-line pursuits, and whether you should be wary of the activities of your team’s aspiring entrepreneurs – or encouraging them?
It’s my view that we need more counter-conventional thinkers in the world, and that if your teams are demonstrating mindsets that go against the grain and offer a new way of doing business – one that breaks the rules – then we should embrace and support them on the entrepreneurial journey. How, you ask? By embedding an entrepreneurial mindset within your team – of which there are six, all of which fly in the face of what we’ve come to know as traditional business wisdom. Here are two that, when developed in your team, could help your organisation change the world.
Seize the initiative
First, for more than four decades, the widely accepted wisdom in the world of business has been that the most successful companies are those that pursue opportunities for which the necessary competencies are already in hand. But many entrepreneurs – and several stories of corporate failures – show the value of taking a different path and saying “Yes, We Can!” when a new opportunity to develop outside of their current skillset comes knocking. Take, for example, Amazon and the invention of their Kindle product. Despite having no experience in developing any kind of hardware, they embraced the challenge and, in turn, changed the way we consume books. Had they not said yes to the opportunity, Amazon may have followed the well-discussed path of Blockbuster and Kodak in failing to innovate to match the market’s needs. Instead, they said yes – and the rest is history.
Second, many entrepreneurs are cash-strapped and rely on unconventional ways of getting their projects off the ground. As such, many follow the mindset of “Beg, Borrow, but Don’t Steal”. Borrowing instead of purchasing assets outright mitigates risk, enables flexibility in plans, and ring-fences the returns for the entrepreneur. Adopting this mindset of necessity and innovation in your organisation can help you face unexpected challenges. For every asset you need to get a new initiative underway, ask your team how they can get their hands on it without investing up front. Could they borrow talent from another department, or use an empty office space as a dedicated project space? Encouraging your staff to think outside of the box will help them to find new ways to solve problems, and act faster and smarter in the face of challenges.
Side hustles are not going anywhere soon, so it’s up to employers and business leaders to work with their staff to engage with this new reality and witness the benefits for both sides. Whilst some activities lend themselves better to an organisation’s current capabilities than others, the mindset and experience that employees will gain from being more entrepreneurial are invaluable and should be embraced.
About the author
John Mullins is associate professor of management practice at London Business School and author of a new book, Break the Rules! The Six Counter–Conventional Mindsets of Entrepreneurs That Can Help Anyone Change the World (published by Wiley, available now, £21.99).