By Mike Southon, FT Columnist
Ever since the publication of our book on entreneurship, my co-author Chris West and I have been trying to work out how to bring the same value to the corporate market. This proved much harder than we originally envisaged.
We followed the correct procedure, modifying our Beermat model to a more process-driven environment. We trialled workshops in several companies, including Rolls Royce, and the then CEO Sir John Rose very kindly provided a glowing testimonial for our book The Boardroom Entrepreneur.
Feedback from the workshops was good but we were rarely asked back. We remembered Oscar Wilde’s comment about a contemporary: “Frank Harris has been received in all the great houses – once.”
The issue was not with the top-level management who were keen to stimulate innovation and creativity; nor was it with the people at the coalface, who we found to be brimming with energy and good ideas.
The problem lay with the middle management, who seemed determined to stifle any attempt at anything new. They suffered from various characteristics, from inertia and jealousy to understandable concerns about the company’s brand values or the more urgent requirement to meet short-term goals imposed from above.
We assumed our relative failure to set the corporate world alight was due to cultural differences. We clearly had limited experience in corporate environments and never had enough time to fully understand the particular organisations we were trying to improve. It did not help that we referred to middle management as ‘dragons’ in our book.
I became resigned to merely providing thought-provoking keynotes at company conferences. However, many of the tools used by entrepreneurs were genuinely of interest, providing they were focused on keeping people in their current environment rather than encouraging them to leave and start their own ventures.
I was therefore very interested to learn that the Wealth Dynamics profiling system I featured in this column two weeks ago had been adapted for larger organisations and rebranded as Talent Dynamics.
Michelle Clarke spent fifteen years at Marks & Spencer, finally as Head of Leadership and Development for the UK and Ireland. She had used Wealth Dynamics to double the turnover of her own consulting business, so set about changing the language in the model and developing new tools and exercises to work appropriate for larger teams.
She retained the concept of helping people find their ‘flow’, their maximum effectiveness in an organisation, and connected this with building up mutual trust to generate maximum leverage within an organisation.
This struck me as the crucial difference between start-ups and ‘intrapreneurship’ in large organisations. In small, tribal teams trust is implicit otherwise the company implodes immediately. In larger organisations, trust has broken down, encouraging the growth of process and bureaucracy. This will eventually stifle any organisation and make it uncompetitive.
Clarke’s results have been spectacular. One department at Blackpool Council turned itself from a soon-to-be-cut £300K drain on resources to a £100K revenue-generator in just a few months. This department is responsible for enterprise education in schools, and by becoming more entrepreneurial itself is now deploying its HERO programme nationwide and was awarded a Big Society Award from David Cameron.
Clarke is now working with a wide range of large corporate clients and licensing her programmes around the world. In Australia the country’s largest Internet service provider is now using Talent Dynamics to both win new business and also run more efficiently.
Entreneurship is always about people, not ideas. It is clear that Clarke, with her in-depth understanding of how large companies work, understands how to create flow in large organisations much better than I ever could.
Originally published in The Financial Times: www.ft.com Copyright ©Mike Southon 2011. All Rights Reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon- Co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur & Business Speaker- www.mikesouthon.com
Mike is one of the world’s top business speakers, a Fellow of The Professional Speakers Association. Mike is a Visiting Fellow in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at London South Bank University. He has made frequent appearances on television and radio, has a monthly sales column in Real Business magazine and is a regular commentator in the Financial Times.
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