Be more enterprising

Be more enterprising

Only a lunatic would attempt to do more for less - yet that's exactly what many of you have been doing of late, says business guru Iain Scott.

Only a lunatic would attempt to do more for less - yet since the financial meltdown of 2007, that’s precisely what many businesses and organisations - public, private, voluntary, arts, big or small - have been trying to do.

Such an approach may seem easy. Identify chunks of budget and cut them. Identify strands of staffing and reduce them.

But it's also incredibly foolish. The result may look like an apparent cost reduction, but look harder and you will find a more stressed and less productive workforce.

No, if you really want to get ahead you have to learn to think and act differently. This is where intrapreneurs, the forgotten little brothers or sisters of entrepreneurs, come in.

An intrapreneur is enterprising inside their organisation. It is the intrapreneur who finds new ways of doing things, and creates new products and services. Doing more for less is not for them.

They do things differently, and have more fun, are more productive and create more profit as a result.

So where do these intrapreneurs come from? Well, Intrapreneurship - the art of being enterprising while working for someone else - is something that both companies and individuals can learn.

My company, Cognitive Business Therapy, has been teaching people and organisations how to be enterprising for over 20 years, and I've worked with groups as diverse as tomato growers in the Clyde Valley, the NHS, colleges and the voluntary sector, helping all of them learn to be enterprising.

The starting point is always the same. I look attheir enterprise arteries. Every organisation or business has them. They are the pathways for the lifeblood of successful, vibrant business.

Unfortunately many busineses or organisations are near to death, their enterprise arteries are so clogged up.

Policy, procedure, politics and process clog up the enterprise arteries of organisations and businesses just like fat.

That is why there is a need to encourage intrapreneurs. They fight the sluggishness from within and can make massive changes.

I’ve seen it happen - college lecturers creating new products, NHS managers transforming teams and tomato growers developing a new strain with a 40% profit margin.

Intrapreneurship works - if you let it. To check organisational enterprise health, I apply this simple diagnostic test when I start to work with organisations and businesses.

Answer the five questions yourself - the answers will reveal much about your business or organisation’s current attitudes to innovation, and will lay the foundation for unlocking potential, in you as an individual, or in your workplace.

The Talk Artery

Do you have an opportunity to discuss things with colleagues in an informal way and is it encouraged? How often do you set aside time in your business just to chew the fat over your competitors, your customer’s behaviour and even your customers’ customers.

The Idea Artery

If you have an idea are you able to run with it, or does it get passed up the line, or taken to a committee where it dies a slow death? Do you encourage thinking from all direction – or do you kill off any suggestions because you haven’t come up with them yourself, or they come from someone who is the most junior in the business?

The Test Yourself Artery

Do you have a chance to test yourself? Are you doing what you are great at or firefighting? Yes, you’re too busy to do the background and research, but what about giving it as a project to someone else in the business? Give them a timescale and get them to report back promptly on what they find.

The Have A Go Artery

When someone comes up with a new way of doing things, does it get a chance to be put to the test without expectation? As in, “Have a go and let’s see what happens.” Often it’s a matter of resources – how much are you prepared to spend on exploring an intrapreneurial idea.

The Shock Artery

Is your world of work going through sudden unexpected change? Has your organisation had a shock and, if so, is the management response to do more of the same with fewer resources or to respond and say, “it’s time for something different?” If the answer to the first four questions is no and the answer to the fifth is "Yes - big shock”, then it's time for a change.

You cannot do the same or more with less - you need to get the blood flowing again. As somebody once put it to me very neatly, "it's time to be less janitorial and more entrepreneurial.” Or should I say Intrapreneurial!

Iain Scott is the leading UK specialist in how people and organisations learn to be enterprising. He blogs on coffee, scones and business therapy.

Twitter: @enterpriseiain