First Soft Job
It makes business
Specialization breeds isolation. It can be deadly, both to the specialists as well as to the organizations that employ them. Jack Welch’s GE almost bit the dust to dotcom newcomers such as Ariba and Commerce One.
could have the legendary Jack Welch woken-up to the Internet potential
only after he saw his family purchasing online for Christmas, as late as
Information Services (GEIS) did lead in pre-Internet EDI transactions;
catering to about 100,000 companies. But the specialist GEIS had a
skewed view of the Internet potential. Locked into prevailing (EDI)
technology, GEIS - still mainframe bound - saw the Internet as a cheap
alternative for those who were not large enough to operate in the EDI
system. GEIS at first even offered Internet solutions to hook the
minnows on to the EDI fading World. By 1997 it was clear even to GEIS
that EDI was doomed, but GEIS failed to communicate it effectively to
the conglomerate’s leaders; missing the “first movers’ advantage”.
got it late. How could this have happened? The organization’s culture
can take the brunt of the blame. But is it enough an explanation?
was number one in its field and, by GE rules of engagement, it was safe;
GEIS thought it could afford to fuss about with the Y2K bug. To GEIS’
former “crew-cut” Marine commander, offering to engage a credible
bug must have seemed more appropriate than pointing to a threat by
tie-less Californian flamboyant young executives. Besides, developing
new technology meant dumping the old one, at a high cost - for uncertain
revenues. GE’s conglomerate structure would not have favoured spending
the millions that were necessary. Not unless the specialists had
developed the communication skills they lacked, or the conglomerate
leaders had the listening skills they failed to show. After all, Mr.
Welch saw the light while listening to his family. He may have been hard
of hearing, but he was not deaf.
we see similar communication failures nearer to home? Perhaps we can.
Brazil’s leading private bank innovated in Internet banking to the
point of leading in number of online customers, loosing only to BofA and
Wells Fargo. But the bank’s specialists’ divisions never managed to
persuade their bosses that they could export that technology while it
was internationally competitive. Something similar happened to Brazil’s
second largest private bank.
specialist divisions of both Brazilian banks were led by technically
proficient staff, successful at what they had been asked to do, but
unable to overcome the credibility gap when proposing ventures out of
their realm of competence. Very much like GE; only that it should have
been easier for GE to listen, for the USA is a meritocratic society
while Brazil is less so.
many Latin American countries, speaking up to bosses, particularly to
owners, requires the specialist staff to overcome higher psychological
hurdles than in more meritocratic societies; and therefore requires from
company leaders a greater willingness to listen to the specialists.
Entrepreneurs by Default?
is among the most sought
for talents in business. Countries that figure well in
entrepreneurial rankings usually portray more vigorous adoption of new
technologies and management techniques, all contributing to enhanced
productivity and steadier growth patterns.
stands prominent in entrepreneurship according to Global
Entrepreneurship Monitor. Yet, a recent soundbyte published in Forbes Brasil
suggests that Brazil’s performance in entrepreneurship may not be as
a human resource consulting company serving some of Brazil’s most prominent
companies –named in the article above - reports that entrepreneurial vocation
may be lacking: less than 2% may have it.
this situation widespread? When GEM’s country entrepreneurial ranking is
adjusted to reflect needs-based entrepreneurial activity; Brazil ranks highest
in the World; suggesting that Brazilians are entrepreneurial by necessity rather
than by disposition. A similar conclusion can be drawn from the data on
Argentina, and Chile, while Mexican entrepreneurs would appear to be less driven
by necessity than the other three. Yet all four countries appear amongst the
above average entrepreneurial countries, even above countries like Israel, Hong
Kong, Singapore and China.
Innovation requires a rewarding organization. A punishing one is unlikely to be a creative one. Where does yours stand? Think carefully before putting the brunt of the blame on your workforce’s lack of entrepreneurship.
could be mischievously construed to mean that Brazilians prefer a wage to launch
a business and when they do find a job they show it!
if the Brazilian workforce at large were not entrepreneurial, could Brazilian
business or government have developed and adopted such successful banking
automation practices, or such effective e-commerce solutions? Probably not,
because being a first mover requires a considerable amount of entrepreneurship.
if Brazil is a highly entrepreneurial society - as suggested by GEM and shown by
Brazil’s inventiveness - and there are companies in Brazil with less
entrepreneurial disposition that would be desirable; the solution to the problem
lies squarely with those companies' management.
you sense your company’s entrepreneurship disposition is somewhat stolid; it
would pay to be attentive to the appropriateness of your hiring procedures as
well as to the ways your business is rewarding innovation and punishing mistakes.
For it is the latter three, rather than the nature of the Brazilian workforce,
which accounts for more of the revealed entrepreneurship talents in your company,
however low they may be.
fall of Rome”
your work occasionally feel like that of Auden’s unimportant clerk?
How long has it been since you last read some poetry? Since you wrote poetry?
Auden, Seamus Heaney, Akhmatova, Neruda, Fernando Pessoa;almost any
other; and fly out-of-your-box.
" Feeling authentic, living a life that is strongly connected to one’s belief system, is energizing and promotes growth, learning and psychological well-being."
Does the above sound to you like a gender-laden statement? Can personal and business values fall out of line more readily in men than in women? Is there a gender issue in leadership? Are there women and men styles of leadership?
Please take a minute to reply to a very short survey that will help us determine whether this would be a promissing area of managerial research. Only the first 100 answers can be handled, until November 20th. Click on Being true, Newsleader survey or copy the link below and copy it into your browser:
should then be lead to the survey which only has five questions. Many
thanks, and remember, the survey is anonymous.
Louise Earnshaw, both with the University of Queensland’s
School of Psychology and the School of Business, is working to tell us the difference. Her preliminary
findings indicate that the two groups (entrepreneurs and kids at risk)
share a number of unique similarities but that the young-at-risk show personality differences
to successful non-entrepreneurial professionals. Her work may turn out
to be most important in shaping social policy and in helping us understand
how to promote entrepreneurship.
interviews Anne Miller on entrepreneurship at large organizations.
Anne is a partner with Mercer
Delta Organizational Consulting firm, based in the London office,
from where she works around the world.
She is an entrepreneur and an innovator who believes that that entrepreneurship is a way of being at the workplace. Her
approach is action-oriented and led to the
development of the Action
Lab™ - a rapid
cycle time approach for innovation. In 2001,
Anne created and served as initial Director of the Entrepreneurship Summer
School at London Business School with the purpose of transforming concepts
into fundable business plans.
2. Reward and recognition structures
3. Planning and measurement
4. Decision criteria and governance structures that either do or do not distinguish the difference between experimental / new ventures and mainstream, business as usual activities
NewsLeader: How can entrepreneurship be developed in large companies?
Anne Miller: As Dr Jeffery Pfeffer from Stanford says “Everyone wants to build a learning organisation but no one really wants anyone to learn”…because that means tolerating mistakes.
Companies that want to foster entrepreneurship must create a cultural context that allows responsible mistakes that accompany learning. Rather than putting all the energy into being 100% ‘right’, companies need to build skills for rapid cycle time recovery, resiliency and creating a bigger opportunity out of a mistake. The first condition to develop entrepreneurship in large companies is for the leadership to want it and to have the courage to practice its behaviour among. If this condition cannot be met, then the effort will be severely compromised.
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